Ray Vowles and Mel Hull feed the fry at the Charters River Salmon Interpretive Centre

Charters hatchery opens for educational tours

Tanks of salmon fry will be available for viewing at centre

The Charters River Salmon Interpretive Centre’s latest exhibition recently hatched into existence.

The centre’s demonstration hatchery currently harbours coho fry that were harvested this fall from Charters River Creek. The fry are the first batch of salmon at the centre that will serve as a learning mechanism on the developmental stages and life cycle of salmon, according to Ray Vowles, Salmon Interpretive Centre president.

He said eventually the centre will be able to physically demonstrate the complete hatchery process.

“We can actually have the kids watch us take fish out of the stream, put them into the tanks, and then take the eggs,” Volwes said. “So they can see the whole proccess from when the eggs turn into what you see now.”

Salmon hatch from eggs into alevin, then develop into fry. From here they develop into smolt where they undergo physiological changes to live in salt water, but the duration salmon remain in fresh water depends on the species. Salmon will then move onto ocean life where they continue to grow, until it is time to go back to their birth river to spawn.

Elida Peers, a volunteer at the centre, said members of the Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society have lent their expertise to the project.

“They’re the experts in the field and they are helping us with a fledging demonstration hatchery,” she said.

In addition to the demonstration hatchery are salt water and fresh water tanks and a terrarium. All exhibits will feature creatures from local habitats.

Peers said all the wildlife will work in hand with the interpretive programming, which will span over the region’s history, geography of Sooke and its bodies of water, and how aspects of nature interact.

“Everything is related, everything is a circle, whether it’s the sea, the sky or the trees,” Peers said. “They all relate to each other and that is one of the messages that come from here. “

The centre, which is the only interpretive organization to become established in B.C., is a $1 million enterprise. Western Economic Diversification Canada funded $318,000 of the project, with the remainder coming from cash donations and in-kind contributions from local individuals and businesses.

“It’s an absolute demonstration of the spirit of the people of our area,” Peers said.