Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fin Clipping

We are among the newest, and are quite likely the greenest 'stream keepers' on the west coast! On Wednesday we joined and had our first morning volunteering with the Fanny Bay Salmonid Enhancement Society. They are a great group of volunteers who operate a small hatchery and look after more than 20 streams that drain into Baynes Sound. They put us to work very quickly because they needed hands to clip the adipose fins of many thousand salmon smelts. Here's what we now know about this process..... it is done so that fishers recognize that these fish are from a hatchery, and so that they are recognizable when they return to these streams. These little guys have been fed since the fall and are getting ready for release - they are just a bit longer than the palm of one's hand, and after a dose of clove oil calmed them down it was possible to pick them up, quickly clip that little fin behind the dorsal, and put them back into running water that sent them back into their tank. The fish counters told us at the end of the morning that we'd clipped precisely 5001 fish.

The streams that these folks (us too, now) look after are the most likely to be affected by the proposed Raven Coal Mine. It is hard to believe, but both levels of government are (well, were, when there was a functioning prov. government) apparently encouraging several new proposals to remove coal from the bench just a few kms. above the Sound. There is a long and dangerous history of coal mines here, all of which have been closed for years. But it seems that it's now possible to seriously propose a new underground mine, with the coal to be transported by road to Port Alberni and then by ship to Japan. It's hard to keep track of the number of things that are wrong with this plan. We're wearing NO COAL MINE buttons and have gotten involved with Coal Watch and the Comox Valley Sierra Club. And have just had intimate interactions with several hundred salmon. There is a huge amount to learn and do, but this was a good place to start.

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