March 26, 2009.

Dear Honorable Gail Shea, PC, MP

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans,
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Shea,

Re: Chinook salmon and the need to implement New Strategies for Enhancement.

There are many systems on the lower west coast of British Columbia which are teetering on extinction (10 to 50 returns) and they need a boost in numbers or they will quite simply vanish….their genetic strain and all. No one wants this to happen!!

What we at Omega Pacific are proposing is a seven year project using our proven Bio-Technology to grow S-1 smolts targeting a number of these endangered systems. The Nahmint, Franklyn and Bedwell River Chinook quickly come to mind…and there are many more. This initiative would allow for a true comparison between the existing approach and the approach we at Omega Pacific are suggesting. It is expected that the results will produce a noticeable improvement in returns, and proving that our technology can be applied to other fledgling systems.

The S-1 smolt is the innovative key for today’s salmon enhancement needs. The crisis is that the SEP facilities were not designed to rear this type of fish successfully, and any attempts to produce a yearling smolt have rendered a poor quality fish at best. Please understand that private hatcheries have spent the past 25 years refining their facilities to specifically produce the S-1 smolts.


Much has been written of times gone by when spawning salmon almost choked our B.C. Rivers in their abundance. Rivers so red with fish that you could imagine walking upon them from bank to bank. Since the end of the Second World War, Pacific Salmon runs have been in steady decline, we understand the reasons for this are varied and many.

From the late 1950’s until present, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have developed and operated numerous hatcheries here on the west coast of Canada. The purpose of these salmon enhancement operations was to stabilize and or increase the number of returning salmon. This initiative is known as the Salmon Enhancement Program (SEP). The specific technique which was implemented for Chinook salmon evolved spawning the eggs in the fall and releasing the juveniles the following spring.

This operational strategy worked for many years and the expected returns were approximately 1.5% of the number of fish released. The beneficiaries of this 1.5% return are made up of Native, Commercial and Sport Fisheries, nature’s spawners and the SEP hatcheries. In spite of this initiative during the 1970’s the writing was on the wall….Pacific Salmon were in steep decline.

In the mid 1980’s along came the salmon farming industry. The concept was to rear salmon in net enclosures until they were market size. This new industry adopted the SEP model for rearing their salmon. Now it must be understood that a captive salmon may be under a more stressful situation than a fish let to roam the ocean, and the two can not be totally compared. However, the problem when comparing the two is that little is known about the wild salmon and what, in fact, happens to the 98.5% which are not accounted for. Predation? Disease? Capture outside out territorial boundaries etc…..

One of the first things that the salmon farmers experienced was the proliferation of a number of existing salmon diseases. The losses from these out breaks were unacceptable and this problem needed to be solved in order for the industry to succeed. By the late 80’s a few of the forward thinking growers experimented with a concept which turned out to be the biggest single breakthrough for the industry to date.

We grew the fish for an additional year in the fresh water hatchery until they reached 50grams or more . This single change resulted in a more immune competent, disease resistant fish; one that is better prepared to adjust from fresh to saltwater, spends less time in the estuary, is less affected by predators such as mackerel, and is large enough to access available feed. This yearling fish is known as an S-1 Smolt.

This is a very big topic; it is unfortunate that in the past Management within DFO has been hesitant to take our suggestion seriously. We have been given endless reasons why we should not be allowed involvement with enhancement (although we do find DFO is attempting to mimic techniques acquired by the salmon farming sector). With the situation as it is, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

If I were at the head of fisheries in Ottawa, I would jump at the chance to be recognized as the Minister who took and bull by the horns and turned the Pacific Salmon Crises around. The Pacific Salmon should not be allowed to go the way of the Atlantic Cod…..this situation can be corrected ….all that is needed is courageous intervention from the highest levels!

Remember that throughout history there have always been those, who, for whatever reason are out in front with pioneering ideas. We are those kinds of people and we hope that you are too! Carol and I each bring 30 years experience in rearing Chinook salmon. We nurture and care for them 24/7 in both freshwater and saltwater facilities. We live at our modern hatchery site in the mountains of Vancouver Island and are certain our knowledge and participation will make a measurable difference.

With Best Regards,

Bruce Kenny & Carol Schmitt

“today’s problems can’t be solved by thinking the way we did when we created them”, Albert Einstein.

Cc. Dr. James Lunney, Member of Parliament. Nanaimo –Alberni
Randy Kamp, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Hatching a plan to solve B.C.'s salmon crisis; Public sector, meet private. The aquaculture industry says the government's hatchery program is broken - and is proposing a fix

7 November 2009
The Globe and Mail
2009 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

VANCOUVER -- The federal government's fight to save the West Coast's dwindling salmon stocks is run from a glistening 18-storey office tower in the heart of Vancouver's financial district, where, despite a $250-million budget and the best work of more than 2,000 employees, the battle is being lost.

On the shores of Vancouver Island's Great Central Lake, in a clearing they hacked out of the forest by hand, Bruce Kenny and Carol Schmitt think they know why British Columbia is losing that fight and is having some of its worst salmon returns in history.

And they say they know how to fix it: by adopting a model perfected by the aquaculture industry, which has learned to grow its young fish more slowly during the first year. The approach relies on producing fewer, but healthier, salmon that have a vastly improved chance of surviving in the ocean environment.

“We truly believe the first brick in the wall was wrong when DFO built its hatchery program. We should correct this,” said Mr. Kenny, commenting on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans 32-year-old strategy for bringing back salmon runs.

DFO's Pacific Region has many responsibilities, but the protection of B.C.'s salmon resource is paramount. In recognition of that, DFO launched a special hatchery-based project in 1977, known as the Salmonid Enhancement Program. SEP's goal: to double B.C.'s salmon stocks.

SEP releases more than 400 million juvenile salmon each year, from 23 major and about 300 small hatcheries. It has an annual budget of about $26-million and is supported by 10,000 community volunteers. It has had some tremendous successes (as recently as 1996, SEP helped boost the Skeena River sockeye runs to record levels), but the trend for B.C. has been steadily downward for most of the decade.

The crisis was brought into sharp focus on the Fraser River this fall, when the sockeye run collapsed so completely that on Thursday Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a judicial inquiry to find out what went wrong.
But the problem is bigger than the Fraser. It is coast-wide and it raises the question: Why has B.C.'s salmon catch fallen from over 30,000 tonnes in 1998 to only 5,000 tonnes last year?

Many blame the ocean, saying shifts in temperature and nutrient levels have resulted in extreme mortality rates.
But according to Mr. Kenny, who with his business partner, Ms. Schmitt, runs a private hatchery, a big part of the problem is that DFO's enhancement program is out of sync with nature.

“Look at it this way,” Ms. Schmitt said as she fussed over trays of salmon eggs at the Omega Pacific Hatchery, near Port Alberni. “When DFO releases its smolts in the spring, 60 per cent will be dead within four months. That's not good.”

Mr. Kenny lives over the Omega hatchery incubation room, where he wakes to the sound of 1,200 gallons a minute of cold mountain water running through tanks that contain tens of thousands of tiny chinook salmon eggs. He and Ms. Schmitt, whose home is next door, live and breathe salmon, and they learned the hard way about the challenges fish face.

“If there's one thing I don't ever want to see again, it's a dead salmon,” Mr. Kenny said.

When he and Ms. Schmitt began their hatchery 30 years ago, growing small salmon for the fish-farming industry then just emerging on the West Coast, they regularly experienced horrific die-offs when smolts were moved from freshwater tanks to ocean pens.

They were working with chinook eggs provided by a DFO facility and were producing fish the same way SEP was. They moved the young fish from fresh to saltwater when they were about eight months old – at a stage known as S-0, for smolts-zero.

But unlike DFO, which loses track of its smolts once they are released, Omega kept all its fish in pens – and they got to see what happened next.

Ms. Schmitt, who keeps the eggs from each female in separate numbered trays, so she can identify the individual mothers, said several months after being transplanted to saltwater, fish began to die.
Vibriosis, a prevalent fish disease that causes blood and skin infectionsand bacterial kidney disease, swept through their crop.

They struggled with the problem for years – knowing that if they didn't solve it, their business would be as dead as the fish floating belly up in their pens. Ms. Schmitt says the disease outbreaks were telling them something was wrong with their fish culture methods. But what?

“We had to figure this out,” Mr. Kenny said.

And eventually they did.

“By the late eighties a few of the forward-thinking growers experimented with a concept which turned out to be the biggest single breakthrough for industry to date,” Mr. Kenny said in a letter to the government.

“We grew the fish for an additional year in the freshwater hatchery until they reached 50 grams or more. This single change resulted in a more immune-competent, disease-resistant fish; one that is better prepared to adjust from fresh to saltwater, spends less time in the estuary, is less affected by predators such as mackerel, and is large enough to access available feed. This yearling fish is known as an S-1 smolt.”

It is a model, he says, that the fish-farming industry quickly adopted.

“Had industry not gone from S-0 to S-1, there would be no industry,” he said. “We've spent a lifetime dissecting and analyzing and moving the parts of the puzzle around. And we've learned.”

Ms. Schmitt, who has worked in a DFO hatchery, says the government grows its fish too fast.

“They bring the eggs into a warm hatchery and they trigger them. A fish that would grow really slowly in nature is doubling in weight every week. … They aren't doing that in nature. It's the increased water temperature, the increased nutrients [in fish food]. It triggers smoltification. It tricks them. They go to the ocean and they aren't ready for it,” she said.

Mr. Kenny and Ms. Schmitt say they have been urging DFO to adopt the private-industry approach – which boasts a 96-per-cent survival rate from smolt to adult, compared to DFO's rate of 1 per cent to 10 per cent.

Omega has proposed raising S-1 chinook for three river systems on Vancouver Island on a trial basis. It wants to prove its model with a seven-year, $4.6-million project, jointly funded by private and public sources.
At DFO headquarters in downtown Vancouver, SEP director Greg Savard, a soft-spoken, silver-haired DFO veteran, says his department is open to new ideas as it struggles to deal with an ocean survival problem that has afflicted both enhanced and wild stocks.

But he's not rushing into anything.

“We're doing more thinking just on the timing of the release of fish,” he said. “Some people want us to experiment by holding [fish] longer … but some of the data suggests that's not always good. In some places we've done research and it indicates that the fish might be bigger when you hold on them to for a year before release, but they come back earlier….so you are actually getting fish returning earlier and they are smaller.”

But he says poor salmon runs in B.C. reflect a larger ecosystem problem, not a flaw in the SEP approach. He says B.C.'s salmon stocks won't rebound until ocean conditions improve, but SEP is looking for more effective ways to operate.

“We are searching for answers,” Mr. Savard said. “If we could do something different that would improve the returns and the productivity of the stocks, we are interested in understanding what that would look like.”
What it looks like to Mr. Kenny and Ms. Schmitt is simple – it's the model private enterprise built.


Better with age

Private hatchery operators say the Department of Fisheries and Oceans would see better salmon returns if it started releasing fewer, older smolts. Instead of releasing smolts that are less than one year old, known as S-0, they suggest S-1 smolts that are kept for an extra year in fresh water before being released. Here is a comparison provided by Omega Pacific Hatchery:


DFO familiar with raising them.
Grow quickly and are relatively inexpensive.


Immune systems are not fully developed and 85 per cent will die in six months.
Smaller, slower fish are easier prey for mackerel.
Survival rate for DFO S-0 smolts is from 1 per cent to 10 per cent.


Strong immune systems, unaffected by vibriosis disease.
Less vulnerable to predators.
Better developed for ocean migration and return to spawning streams as larger adults.
A 96-per-cent survival rate from smolt to adult.


More expensive to raise.
More expensive to transport.
Require careful husbandry throughout first year.

Mark Hume
Document GLOB000020091107e5b70004j


Carol Schmitt or Bruce Kenny
Ph. 250-731-5043
PO Box 9
Port Alberni, BC
Canada V9Y7M6