Although with a primary mandate to increase and study salmonid population, staff at the Quatse River Hatchery and Quatse Salmon Stewardship Centre know that to truly make a difference, much of their emphasis must be placed on educating younger generations.
Jeannine McCormack, manager of the Stewardship Centre, said when it comes to her approach, driving home the importance of environmental stewardship comes down to developing personal connections with people from a young age.
“You are not going to take care of something unless you have that personal connection to it,” said McCormack.
“That’s how I approach environmental education.”
McCormack said she is always thrilled when she can work with students participating in the ‘Stream to Sea’ program, as a part of their school curriculum, because it allows the opportunity for this relationship to form. The intent of the ‘Stream to Sea’ program is to encourage students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 as well as First Nations, local communities and external parties to participate in cooperative fisheries and watershed stewardship activities.
“They can learn about salmon, and learn about the life cycle of the salmon and how important they are to the environment and to the economics of the regions. (But when) they are checking in on them, and feeding them, they are really forming a personal connection. That is the important part, because if they have that personal connection to the fish, they are going to take that with them throughout their lives,” McCormack said.
The Stewardship Centre is relatively new to the hatchery, having opened in 2009.
The hatchery was established in 1982 as the non-profit organization, the North Vancouver Island Salmonid Enhancement Association (NVISEA) made up by local dedicated volunteers, was founded to increase production, enhance habitat, environmental monitoring, provide public education and enhance community involvement in monitoring salmonid populations.
Types of salmon hatched, matured and released at the hatchery include; chum, pink, and coho salmon. Steelhead “salmon” are also active at the hatchery, although there is still some debate on their categorization, they are often referred to as Rainbow Trout that go to sea.
This diversity is a good example of what keeps individuals like Ray Volk, assistant manager of the Quatse Hatchery, interested in his line of work.
“The more you get into salmon, its biology and its life cycles and the passion that the public and the workers have for the salmon (in the region) the more you want to know,” said Volk.
It is this dynamic that has kept Volk working in hatcheries for 30 years, starting his career in 1972 in Port Alberni at the Robertson Creek Hatchery. Although Volk admits that it was from pretty humble beginnings he started his career.
“I went into the hatchery (Robertson Creek Hatchery) to apply for a job and they just handed me a pair of waders and put me in a pond with all these mature salmon that were returning. It was the first time I had ever seen salmon and that is how I started,” Volk said.
The hatchery draws from diverse funding steams including federal and provincial governments, operation of a 62 campsites, contract work, and even conference and birthday space rentals.
Funding of course, means that the Hatchery can continue its day-to-day operations. For Volk, research-driven contracts are what he really enjoys, because they allow for the generation of funds, and in many cases allow him to be on the forefront of research in the field of salmon study.
Ultimately though Volk knows that if it weren’t for the volunteers on the North Island, work done by the hatchery wouldn’t be possible.
“I am always amazed with the volunteers, because all of our adult captures are (often) done by people volunteering to angle. They call us when they get a fish and we go pick it up, and they are not asking anything in return.
“They just want to be there supporting (us),” Volk said.
To volunteer for the Quatse River Hatchery you can contact Ray Volk at 250-949-9022.