On Friday morning, a small, masked group gathered around the Douglas Creek weir to release 35,000 chum fry into the creek as the warm May sun cast dappled shadows on the water.
The Mount Douglas Park fry release is an annual event that usually attracts a crowd of all ages. This year, because of the ongoing pandemic, details of the event were kept quiet and only a select group was permitted to attend – including members of the Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society, staff and volunteers from the Howard English Hatchery and Fisheries and Oceans Canada community advisor Melissa Nottingham.
|Andre Pantelelyver, a member of the Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society, poured one of many buckets of salmon fry into Douglas Creek on May 11, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)|
Just before the large buckets of fish were poured into the creek, the society presented representatives from the hatchery with a cheque for $2,500 in recognition of contributions over the past two decades. The Goldstream Volunteer Salmonid Enhancement Association donates fry each spring and salmon carcasses every winter from the Howard English Hatchery.
Without them, none of the restoration work in Douglas Creek would be possible, said Darrell Wick, society president. The District of Saanich, DFO and the Capital Regional District also play important roles when it comes to bank reinforcement, spawning bed rehabilitation and water monitoring.
The fry were kept in the weir pond for several days before being sent off to the ocean as they need time to imprint on the creek’s unique chemical make-up. This way, they know where to return for spawning in three to five years.
Julia Jupp, a Grade 3 student at Willway Elementary in Langford was also invited to attend the exclusive fry release because of her recent fundraising efforts for the Howard English Hatchery.
|Julia Jupp, a Grade 3 student at Willway Elementary in Goldstream and Howard English Hatchery volunteer, was invited to help with a salmon fry release in Mount Douglas Park on May 11, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)|
The youngster made fish key chains and sold them for $5 each online and at the hatchery, Island Outfitters and Scotty. Jupp, an aspiring marine biologist, raised $2,650 to help purchase new rearing tanks and is already planning her next fundraiser – hand-drawn magnets that portray the different stages of the salmon life cycle. An anonymous donor has already offered $2,000 to help kickstart the second fundraiser.
Jupp has been volunteering at the hatchery since the fall of 2020 after numerous trips to the creek to watch volunteers work. Eventually, she was invited to tour the hatchery and the rest is history.
“It’s a wonderful place and they’re helping our wildlife population,” Jupp explained.
She’s there every weekend, said her mom, Joscilyn, a registered nurse who now also volunteers. Inspired by her daughter, she plans to change careers and was recently accepted to Vancouver Island University’s fisheries and aquaculture program.
The Jupps hope other families will get involved at the hatchery after the pandemic.