Two male volunteers unload salmon smolt into a receptical

It’s been a long lobby; it just might be worth it

qathet Living, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Editor’s note: This was one of the last stories that Abby Francis filed in qathet Living before heading off to take the broadcast journalism course at BCIT.

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Joyce Murray said that the Powell River Salmon Society and other community hatcheries will be receiving more money through the $647.1 million Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative; she did not specify when or how much money would be given however.

“We have heard what the minister has said and now must try to hold DFO Pacific management account- able to this letter,” says PRSS manager Shane Dobler.

“Government funding isn’t something that is al- ways guaranteed, even what is currently being fund- ed by Ottawa right now. Because of this, the PRSS’s fundraising efforts will always be in the forefront. In fact, our goal is to be self-sustaining eventually. That is why we launched the Salmon Preservation Foundation (SPF), the fundraising arm of the PRSS.

Those fundraisers include the annual tide guide, a winter raffle, as well as the Pathway project at Lang Creek. Last year, these fundraising efforts brought in around $200,000, allowing the Salmon Society to hire a fourth staff member for the first time in 20 years.

“Fundraising helps pay for insurance, fuel, hydro, fish food. Everything,” Shane says. “The Powell River Community Forest has also provided significant funding to the PRSS to help keep up with our infrastructure.”

With the Salmon Society’s production size now considerably higher than when the PRSS first started, Shane says the Society needs to get back to its original five employees. “For the last 20 years we have been operating with less than three.”

Those employees are the ones working during the 10 months of the year when coho, chinook, and chum salmon are at one, two, or all three of the hatcheries.

“It’s all one effort, but we can’t keep doing what we’re doing forever. Cost is the real thing,” says Shane.

“The desired result is already happening. The fo- cus now is the chronic underfunding and lack of DFO willingness to carry that message for our program.

“So we have gone out and found some representa- tion. Our MP Rachel Blaney has gone to Ottawa and asked for some help, the government has provided the opportunity. Now what will DFO do with this opportunity? What is that level of government PSSI funding going to be specifically for Powell River?”

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney says her team has been working with the Salmon Society since June 2019 on their initial request for increased operation funding, and like the PRSS, she’s cautiously optimistic about the minister’s response.

“This petition response indicates a willingness on the part of this minister to address the serious concerns of the hatchery,” says Rachel. “It is also proof that the power of community can translate to policy changes within government. I will continue to work with PRSS to follow up with the DFO minister on this matter.”

Long time volunteer (the now-late) Ed Vizzutti helped out the Salmon Society for many, many years.

“I was there when we were transporting salmon by buckets, now salmon are transported by the fish pump and truck,” he recalled earlier this summer.

“Everything done by the Salmon Society and the vol- unteers has always been 100%, and the fish going out into the ocean are in very good condition. It’s an excellent facility and people worldwide come to visit.”

“The goal is to correct the underfunding of the organization,” Shane says.

“Our Foundation will ensure that happens in the future. In the meantime, Ottawa has invested in our program and we want to ask DFO for our fair share of that investment.”

Top image credit: FISHING FOR FUNDING: Powell River Salmon Society volunteers Laura Terry and Tom Krivanek releasing chinook at the Duck Lake hatchery. More funding has been promised… but how much? Photo by Abby Francis

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