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Local fish hatchery threatened by cuts

The future of Pallant Creek fish hatchery hangs in tatters after federal funds were filleted.Fisheries and Oceans Canada cut operational funds for the coho and chum salmon hatchery on Moresby Island to $250,000 for 2009-10, from $350,000, says Russ Jones of Haida Fisheries. The chop means that hatchery staff will not be able to collect many eggs this year, which means very few fry or smolts will be raised and then even fewer salmon will return to Pallant Creek.With no fish returning, the hatchery has no future he said and Fisheries and Oceans Canada will likely not provide any funds the next year.This year's funding will allow for collection of 300,000 coho eggs along with the follow-through on their growth until they are released next year. Mr. Russ said coho fry usually have a 3 percent survival rate. The hatchery usually targets 1.4 million coho fry and 25 million chum eggs. This year, there will be no chum."But what is really uncertain is what is going to happen after [this year]," said Mr. Jones.Pallant Creek is the only major salmon enhancement hatchery on Haida Gwaii, he said. The hatchery has been operating since 1979 and managed by Haida Fisheries since 1998. According to Mr. Jones, a joint Haida-DFO review of the hatchery had been underway since February, with possible cuts to production discussed along with future options for the hatchery, but no final plans were made.Then Haida Fisheries received a call in late August stating that funding would be reduced from what they had expected for 2009/10.Mr. Jones has sent letters to the village of Queen Charlotte, the regional district, fishermen's unions and more looking for support and help in restoring the funding.He said the hatchery provides the communities of Haida Gwaii with commercial and recreational fishing opportunities and work for four full-time staff and 10 seasonal part-time employees during egg takes and again when fry need to be moved.The chum salmon from the hatchery also provide a terminal fishery for several commercial fishermen on the North Coast.Mr. Jones said the only reason they've heard from DFO for the cut is that the hatchery doesn't meet their current objectives. "We mainly do fish production and that is not a priority for them anymore," says Mr. Jones, although he noted that several other hatcheries including ones on the Skeena River, in Kitimat and on the central coast are continuing.The Observer tried to reach Fisheries and Oceans Habitat and Enhancement Branch for comment, but did not receive a response by our deadline.