Rachel Birns, Saskatchewan Fish Hatchery Program Support
It is no secret that 2020 has been an unusual year for everyone due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Like most workplaces, the Saskatchewan Fish Hatchery had to make some adjustments and changes to its regular operations.
First, the disappointing news: Walleye Spawn Camp, which is an annual event that takes place at Buffalo Pound Lake every spring, was cancelled. During a typical spring spawning season, partners in provincial fisheries management gather at Buffalo Pound to net walleye and collect their eggs and milt. The eggs are fertilized on-site, and then transported to the Saskatchewan Fish Hatchery at Fort Qu’Appelle for incubation. Once the eggs hatch, the walleye fry are distributed around the province into public waters chosen by Saskatchewan fisheries biologists.
The walleye camp itself requires a number of people to gather in close quarters while handling many of the same objects. Due to the logistical challenges around operating the camp safely and the health orders relating to Covid-19, officials in the Government of Saskatchewan decided to put safety first and waive their request for walleye fry this year.
We are hopeful for next year!
Now, the good news: Most of the provincial trout stocking program requirements for 2020 were successfully fulfilled. In the initial stages of the lockdown, the hatchery had approximately 500,000 healthy brook, brown and rainbow fingerlings waiting for release into the wild. In order to get the trout stocked safely, fish technicianstook additional safety precautions during the distribution season: safe distancing, extra personal protective equipment, using minimum amount of staff to accomplish stockings, and bringing additional vehicles where necessary.
The hatchery techs did their best to adapt to the conditions of the pandemic to safely deliver fish to their destinations. In spite of some obstacles, almost 100 lakes, ponds and creeks received trout as planned.
In keeping with the public health orders and in the interest of ensuring the safety of tourists and hatchery employees, the decision was made to close our Visitor Centre for the duration of the summer. The facility grounds remained quiet and the school groups and visitors were greatly missed! However, staff did take advantage of the closure to focus on maintenance projects on the grounds that would otherwise be on the backburner. The Saskatchewan Fish Hatchery will be ready for a fresh open in 2021!
For more updates on what is happening at the Saskatchewan Fish Hatchery, feel free to “like” our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SaskFishHatchery. We can also be found on Instagram! Our handle is @saskfishhatchery.