Community hatcheries have weathered the many challenges of operating during a pandemic, continuing to raise and stock fish into Ontario waters. In 2021 the Community Hatchery Program (CHP) is focused on helping hatcheries get through this unprecedented time while continuing to recruit new volunteers and improve their aquaculture practices.
MNDMNRF and OFAH funding arrives at community hatcheries
Funding letters for community hatcheries rolled out in June, announcing $148,500 in Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (MNDMNRF) funding for 36 community hatcheries with two-thirds of that going to operational costs and the remainder for 25 capital improvement projects. However, with the increased costs for running community hatcheries and an inability to safely host traditional fundraising events, community hatcheries needed additional support.
Recognizing these challenges, this year the OFAH Board of Directors requested staff create the OFAH 2021 Community Hatchery Support Fund. The $40,000 in funding provided through OFAH lotteries and other fundraising is a one-time fund that delivers both relief of winter expenses not covered by the CHP and additional operational costs above what can be covered by 2021 CHP funding.
Volunteers – the backbone for continued fish stocking during a pandemic
With all the challenges of the last 18 months, we are grateful for the incredible hard work and dedication of volunteer-run community hatcheries who were able to remain operational. In 2020, COVID-19 restricted the operation of some community hatcheries (Walleye and Rainbow Trout) who could not collect fish eggs in the spring of the pandemic. The 597 volunteers from operational hatcheries still raised and stocked 843,847 fish and dedicated nearly 65,000 volunteer hours to that effort.
If you are on the fence about volunteering at a community hatchery, look at our video series on YouTube called Hooked ON Hatcheries (HOH). It paints a great picture of what volunteers can expect! Most recently we uploaded a video showing how hatcheries care for fish during the early development stages.
To find a volunteer location near you, please check out the hatchery map by clicking here.
Supporting community hatcheries in stocking healthy fish
In 2021, with the full support of the CHP partnership team, fish health is the focus for expanding our community of practice. Community hatcheries and the MNDMNRF recognize the importance of releasing fish into public waters that are free of pathogens to ensure the health of the fisheries in the watersheds they are stocked into. Diagnosing problems and providing solutions is extremely important for community hatcheries in reaching their fish production goals. To help, the CHP hired a fish veterinarian, Dr. Veronique LePage, as a consultant to develop a CHP fish health testing guide. The guide will be used by the CHP to train salmon and trout community hatcheries, providing them with a document to reference when taking fish tissue samples for preliminary examination by volunteers under a microscope and preparing samples to send for further testing by a veterinarian. The development of this guide will lead to a HOH video for Disease Prevention in the Fish Culture Facility and more visual products to support other aspects of the document.