The Bell-Irving Hatchery has been a partnership among KEEPS, Metro Vancouver Regional Parks and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada since 1983.
Enter Bell-Irving Hatchery
1983 saw a salmon enhancement program established on the west coast by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Over 30 hatcheries were established then, including our own “Bell-Irving” located in the Kanaka watershed on 256 Street. From that time our hatchery has been rearing coho and chum salmon every year at an extraordinarily high success rate and we have distributed the fry to many creeks around the Lower Mainland. Pink salmon eggs have been incubated as well, either directly from Kanaka stock or from surrogate stocks from Weaver Creek or Chilliwack River, as attempts to rebuild this once extirpated species continue.
The hatchery is a component of the Kanaka Creek Watershed Stewardship Center, which includes in addition to the George Ross educational building a complex of outside habitat for learning. This allows Metro Vancouver Regional Parks and KEEPS to organize monthly events relating to environmental topics and to conduct educational classes and seminars done by our Education Co-ordinator as well as Metro Vancouver Regional Parks interpretive staff.
There are two earthen ponds at the hatchery which are used to rear coho salmon to the smolt stage after they out-grow the troughs. In 2004, heavy snow destroyed the predator net system. Later that year, a new, stronger system was installed thanks to a grant from the Pacific Salmon Foundation.
The fingerlings are are moved from the troughs to the ponds usually in mid-July when they are about 5 grams. They remain in the ponds until they are released the following year in mid-May.
Fish are fed 2 – 4 times per day with a special dry fish food. Feeding time is always a hit with the kids! The fish are also occasionally sample weighed, as is occurring in the above photo.
When the eggs hatch and enter the alevin stage, they will remain in the incubators until their food source (yolk sac) is gone.
The young fry are then transferred to the outside tanks and begin to feed, just as they would in a natural stream.
Visitors to the hatchery can watch the fry in the two ponds and observe their behaviour. Most salmon and trout have parr marks and dull colouring which helps them blend in with their surroundings. Each species looks slightly different, and parr marks can be used as one means of identification.
Eggs and Milt
During spawning operations, eggs and milt, taken from adult salmon, are combined to start a new generation
The eggs hatch and alevin emerge. Once the yolk sac has been absorbed, the young fry begin to swim.
During their ocean phase, Pacific Salmon are widely distributed over the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Most perform extensive migrations until after one to seven years (depending on species), they return to their native rivers to spawn.
Fry live in fresh water anywhere from only a few days to three or more years.
Smolting is a physiological change that takes place when the fish are ready to migrate to the ocean where they will spend the next phase of their life.