On Jan. 1 I joined a dedicated group of conservationists in a unique annual toast to the Oyster River. New Year’s Day was crisp, cold, calm and clear. It was a beautiful winter day to be outside enjoying the fresh clean air.
The members of the Oyster River Enhancement Society (ORES) have their annual new year’s celebration at the hatchery and on the bank of the river. The event started about 10 a.m. with delicious holiday treats and hot drinks and ended around noon, allowing time for other holiday celebrations.
The toast to the river was quite an uplifting and inspirational ceremony for me. It is a simplistic salute to the river with a small glass of champagne led by ORES president Bernard Lecerf. The photograph is of the president lifting his glass to the river. Prior to the toast three life memberships were awarded to Bob Purkiss, Jim Loring and Bruce Bell in recognition for their dedicated service to ORES.
After the toast I stood on the bank of the river and savoured the importance of this annual event. As I watched the river it appeared naked, clear, and startlingly beautiful in its winter simplicity. The deciduous trees along its bank were devoid of leaves, the frost-overed banks were clear of debris and the river’s huge potential as a home for fish and wildlife was crystal clear as it quietly flowed past the hatchery on its way to the sea. It brought back many memories of intimate contacts I have made in the past on this legendary small river system.
The ORES is much more than an enhancement society – it is a community based conservation society dedicated to the Oyster River and all of its wild fish, birds, animals, forests and natural resources. The hatchery is situated in the Bear Creek Regional District nature park.
Each year they take on a variety to challenges aimed at improving the river for fish and wildlife. Some of the 2014 projects included: an information Kiosk at the cottonwood grove, new upwelling tanks and a capilano trough were installed, gravel purchased and spread on the hatchery roads, the Connolly study completed, a new fish pen completed, plus a floating fish pen to aid in collecting spawners, three schools supplied with coho eggs for classroom studies.
The major project for the year was the NewBerry Riffle that was constructed with the financial and physical help from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Pacific Salmon Foundation. ORES also providing eggs and help to the Knight Inlet Lodge who lost their small hatchery to a fire in 2012.
In 2014 they produced the following salmon fry and smolts that were released in the Oyster River system: 500,000 pink salmon fry were released in March, and in September they collected 436,800 eggs from returning pink salmon. During the year 16,000 chinook salmon fry were released into the river and they collected 56,000 eggs for incubation. In April they released 40,000 coho smolts, kept 40,000 to over winter and a further 90,000 fry were released in the Oyster System. 200,000 chum salmon fry were released into the river in April. They have been very busy and the river has benefited as its life systems have been enhanced.
If you would like to learn more about the ORES, especially with a view to becoming involved, contact Charley Vaughan at 250-337-8955.
Note: In the coming weeks this column will feature some of the other enhancement groups in Area 14.
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The Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association (CDFGPA) is holding its annual antler measuring day on Jan. 31. Doors open at 10 a.m.with lunch and refreshments available throughout the day. There is no admission charge; but there is a $5 measuring fee for non-members. This is a family oriented event that showcases some of the magnificent game animals we have in British Columbia. You are welcome to bring interesting antlers and horns even if they are not record material.
The CDFGPA is holding its Annual Banquet Fundraiser at the Florence Filberg Center on Feb. 28. It is a full evening with dinner and lots of fun. While they last tickets are $40 and are available by calling 250-339-5606 or 250-338-9122.
Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.