Valley men honored for conservation efforts

Larry Peterson and Nick Strussi met through their shared love of fishing.

NICK STRUSSI (left) and Larry Peterson will be honoured Saturday for their years of work to help bring steelhead to the Puntledge and Oyster rivers.

NICK STRUSSI (left) and Larry Peterson will be honoured Saturday for their years of work to help bring steelhead to the Puntledge and Oyster rivers.

Larry Peterson and Nick Strussi met through their shared love of fishing.

When they came together in the late 1990s to help protect fish habitat during construction of the Island Highway through the Comox Valley, they became a formidable force in the protection and conservation of wild fish and their habitats.

They will be honoured Saturday at a Comox Valley dinner, dance and auction for their years of work to help bring steelhead to the Puntledge and Oyster rivers.

Peterson, who lives in Comox, joined the Courtenay Fish and Game Association more than 40 years ago to learn more about his passion for fishing and hunting. He quickly became involved in conservation and fish stock protection, joining the Steelhead Society when it was formed in 1970.

When he retired from teaching 14 years ago, he became involved in fisheries renewal. His role as highways liaison on the construction of the Island Highway is when he joined forces with Strussi, and he is justifiably proud of spirit of consultation and co-operation he and Nick were able to bring forward.

Over the years, Larry was involved with Puntledge River Restoration Society, Oyster River Restoration Society, and Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society, chaired the Sport Fishing Advisory Board and is currently chair of the Comox Valley Environmental Council.

Strussi, who lives in Courtenay, started working at the Puntledge River Hatchery in the mid-1980s as part of a retraining program following a workplace injury.

Over the past 30 years he too has been involved in the Sport Fishing Advisory Board, Steelhead Society, and the Puntledge River Restoration Society, to name a few, and was instrumental in protecting the Bevan wetlands during construction of the Island Highway by successfully campaigning to change the way the highway crossed the Puntledge River.

Strussi is currently active in a number of local fishery concerns, and organizes the chum carcass planting in the Comox watershed each fall. Earlier this year, he received the 2011 Project Watershed Achievement Award for his dedicated work on local conservation efforts.

“These two men are amazing volunteers who have done so much to help restore our rivers and creeks,” says Judy Ackinclose, president of the Fanny Bay Salmonid Enhancement Society and committee chair of the Comox Valley dinner, dance and auction, said. “If you live in our community, and care about fish and fish habitats, you know Larry and Nick because they seem to be involved in everything. It’s a pleasure to know them, and a pleasure to honour them.”

The annual event Saturday is at the Comox Community Centre.

Money raised by the annual dinner goes to support the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Community Salmon Program, which supports volunteer salmon restoration and regeneration projects throughout British Columbia.

In the spring of this year, two volunteer groups in the Comox area, the Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society and the Oyster River Enhancement Society, received grants totaling $43,978 to sustain Pacific salmon populations and habitats.

Since 1989, the Foundation has made grants totaling $982,566 in the Comox region with a total impact of $4.8 million, including local fundraising and in-kind donations.

Tickets to the Comox Valley Dinner, Dance and Auction are $50 per person, and available at Gone Fishin’ and Tyee Marine.

— Pacific Salmon Foundation

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