An email from David Willis, A/Section Head, Coastal Enhancement Operations, Salmonid Enhancement Program, notified us of this unfortunate incident.
During the windstorm on May 23, 2017 there was a power interruption at Big Qualicum hatchery which resulted in a pump shutdown and water supply interruption to the 2016 brood year coho ponds. Due to a failure in the alarm system staff were not alerted to this until 0630 the following day when the Watershed Enhancement Manager arrived on site. Virtually all of the 2016 coho production was lost (~5K juveniles remain out of ~400K). This production supported Georgia Strait mark[ed] selective harvest opportunities, a PST [Pacific Salmon Treaty] indicator supplemented by PSC [Pacific Salmon Commission] funding, as well as a research trial funded by the PSF [Pacific Salmon Foundation].
A partial mitigation approach has been identified to offset some of the impacts to marked coho production on East Coast Vancouver Island (ECVI). 50K coho juveniles that were scheduled to be released this week as fry into Comox Lake from Puntledge hatchery will be relocated to Big Qualicum hatchery for rearing and subsequent release back to Puntledge as clipped yearling smolts in spring 2018. A plan is being developed to manage and minimize potential risks associated with this movement, and we are confident that it can be implemented smoothly. Currently there is no smolt program at Puntledge hatchery due to water supply limitations, so this is a net increase of production at Puntledge. This is solely intended to be a one year action to help to partially offset the loss of production at Big Qualicum for the 2019 fishery. In terms of overall Coho production going into the Strait, this is a net decrease of 350K smolts out of a target of 3.9M, so just under 10%, but obviously it is a major loss for the ECVI program.
DFO Real Property engineering staff have worked with the hatchery to identify the exact cause of the mechanical & electronic failure, and have made improvements to infrastructure and systems to ensure that this unfortunate event does not happen again. I should point out that Qualicum hatchery staff responded very professionally and efficiently. No other production groups were affected.
David Willis may be contacted by email with any questions on this topic.