Despite its 41-year history, the San Juan Salmon Enhancement Society’s work was often overshadowed by its Sooke counterpart.
But for the people of Port Renfrew, it’s their local salmon hatchery that’s the model for environmental stewardship and it’s the support of the community that has kept the hatchery moving forward.
Most recently, part of moving forward has involved the dissolution of the founding society and the establishment of the 4Mile Creek Enhancement Society, which has now taken over the operation.
“Over the past four months, the (old) society was phased out and a new society has taken over,” Shane Bruinsma, the manager of the hatchery, said.
“Morris Tremblay has been running it since 1976, but at 87 years old, he’s decided it’s time to pass the operation on,” Bruinsma said.
“I’m now managing the site along with Lisa Margetish, and we’ve got some exciting things planned. We know that the community’s support is at the heart of our ability to move forward.”
To illustrate support, Bruinsma recently issued a statement thanking Port Renfrew Marina for its unflagging support of the hatchery operation.
“The 4Mile Creek Enhancement Society would like to thank Port Renfrew Marina for the more than 20 years (of support). Their patrons and everyone involved in raising their $12,000 donation toward hatchery projects this year were greatly appreciated,” Bruinsma wrote in a prepared statement.
He pointed out the marina has traditionally donated between $6,000 and $7,000 a year and that the increase in this year’s donation was even more of an indication of the community’s support.
“We do our work quietly and efficiently – getting the job done – without fuss and without fanfare,” Bruinsma said.
Rex Coburn, the owner and operator of the Port Renfrew Marina, said the real heroes behind the donation are the guests and customers of the marina.
“We raise a lot of money (for the hatchery) through our fishing derbies. For example, in September we raised $1,900 in our coho derby,” Coburn said.
“So the donation is not just from Port Renfrew Marina, but from all of our guests.”
Coburn said the Port Renfrew hatchery has a special relationship with the community.
“It’s just very close to home so it makes sense for us to offer them our support. It’s a worthwhile cause that we believe in, and we’re firm believers that more money should go into the operation,” Coburn said.
Bruinsma said the changing of the guard at the hatchery has meant they have to develop a new three to five-year plan for how the operations should develop.
“One example is power generation. We’re four miles out of town and have no power transmission lines out there, so we had to create a water turbine system to generate our power. Now one of our administrators is taking a course on solar power, and next year we’ll be looking at solar” Bruinsma said.
One thing that won’t change, Bruinsma said, is the care the operation takes in fertilizing and raising the million salmon it adds to the ecosystem every year.
“Our system is about as close to natural as you can get, and it’s something we’re very proud of. We plan to keep that up and make sure we’re around for another 40 years and beyond.