More hands on deck needed at Mossom hatchery

Volunteers sought for key roles: passion for the environment is important, a pair of rubber boots would be asset

One of the Tri-Cities’ longest-serving and most revered fish hatchery and environmental education programs is reaching out to the community for volunteers to help run operations.

The Burrard Inlet Marine Enhancement Society is seeking volunteers for a number of key jobs as well as general support for Mossom Creek Hatchery, a program that began in 1976 by high school volunteers from Centennial secondary school.

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Efforts to strengthen the volunteer roster come as a new Fraser Health study finds people who are more engaged are healthier and happier.

And judging by volunteers who helped transport 10,000 coho from tanks at Mossom hatchery to pens in Burrard Inlet last week, the Fraser Health study is right on the money.

“Mossom really is like the song from Cheers, where everyone knows your name,” joked Vicki Guzikowski, one of Mossom’s latest volunteer recruits who turned out for the coho salmon release with her daughter Aniela, age 10.

Guzikowski, a former Centennial student who works out of her home, was inspired to join the volunteer team after visiting the hatchery during one of the regular 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday open house events.

“Once we got up here, we didn’t want to leave,” said Guzikowski.

The family has returned several times to help out and on Friday showed up to help with the Coho release, even though it meant Vicki was missing school to learn about salmon hatchery management.
In fact, learning about salmon hatchery operations and advocating for the environment are among the several benefits of volunteering, according to Kevin Ryan, BIMES president.

“It’s not just a hatchery,” Ryan said. “We’re also about environmental advocacy and environmental stewardship. We need them [volunteers] to have a passion.”

It also helps to own a pair of rubber boots as on the day The Tri-City News visited volunteers were bringing fish to the sea pens and occasionally had to step into the ocean while working around the boat.

Ruth Foster, co-founder of the hatchery, said people gain friends and knowledge when volunteering, especially beneficial for new retirees who have lost their “work family,” she said, while students advancing their career will be able to work on a number of projects to add credibility to their resume and enhance their book-learned knowledge.

“There are a lot of social benefits,” said Foster.

In addition to hatchery operations, BIMES runs an education centre where people come to learn about salmon and the environment.

Ryan said finding volunteers to learn the ropes is important for succession planning to ensure that Mossom stays viable for the long-haul.

In this latest call-out for volunteers, a number of key posts are being filled, Ryan said, adding “we need key people who can come in and assume responsibility.”

The volunteer jobs include a treasurer, ideal for the retired person with accounting experience, assistant hatchery manager, outdoor environmental educational program assistants, which could be teachers or other educators interested in providing lessons to students from pre-kindergarten to high school.

Fish feeders are also needed, which requires some record keeping, and operations support, to ensure all mechanical, plumbing and electrical operations are in good working order. In some cases, training can be provided.

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