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REPORTING · 31st December 2009
Walter McFarlane
On December 1st, The Sport Fishery Advisory Board met at the Public Safety Building for their Annual Meeting.  There were plenty of items on the agenda but they kept coming back to one particular topic.

The board explained that with the potential closure of Eurocan, the fish hatchery will find itself with out a source of hot water.  Currently, the Pulp and Paper Mill provides hot water to the Kitimat Fish Hatchery for their use.  The hot water heats both the building and troughs where the fish grow.

It was explained that the Steelhead benefited the most from having the hot water supply.  The other fish held are not affected as much as the steelhead.  However, the growth of Chinook Salmon are also affected by the hot water.  Once the hot water is gone, the rate of steelhead production will drop from a yearly release to a release once every 2 years.

A concern raised by Brian Kean of the Kitimat Steelhead Society is that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have had the Kitimat Fish Hatchery in their sights as a potential closure for several years now.  He stated that there have been several budget cuts over the last few years for programming.  However, it was pointed out that many other hatcheries do not have the same hot water luxury that the Kitimat Fish Hatchery has.

A motion was proposed to request the government to release some emergency funds to the hatchery to compensate for the loss of the hot water.  It was pointed out that the Hatchery was an important part of Kitimat’s economy due to the tourism industry it helps support.  A motion was made to make a request to bring the capacity of the hatchery to it‘s full potential, increase funding and build upon the resource.  It was carried unanimously.

In the meantime, the Fish Hatcheries is going to be struggling to find a boiler system to heat the building.  One of the speakers also stated that the Fish Hatchery will also use the water they have now to ramp up the temperature in the troughs to make the Steelhead bigger faster.  This will help get the fish to the same size they would have been normally but increases the feeding and the chance for disease.

Not present at the meeting was Fish Hatchery Manager Mark Westcott who offered this comment: “We are looking at what the effects will be and what options are available to overcome any problems. There have been no decisions made about altering production and no talk about closing the facility.”

Albert Hummal who was at the meeting provided one piece of incite though.  Even if Eurocan does close on January 31st, they still have to take care of their lagoons for another 8 months, which will also require hot water.  He suggested that there could be a possibility that the Hatchery would be able to access some of that hot water in the meantime.