Members of the Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society celebrate the release of 20 million fry this year. Pat Forrest is in the middle of the photo. (Contributed)

A brief history of Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society

Approximately 40 years ago, a far-sighted fishery warden by the name of Jack Brooks foresaw a need for local salmon enhancement in the Sooke area, as a result of declining stocks.

He gathered a group of local volunteers from the region and started a movement to help the fish stocks survive.

After a few years of development and learning, the group became a society and began to build a hatchery on a site leased to them from a local forest company.

The group adopted the name of the Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society and embarked on a long journey over many years that saw the creation of a thriving sports fishery and charter fishery in the area.

The financial benefits to local business have probably become significant, but the greatest satisfaction for the members is the continued survival of both the chinook and coho salmon populations in local systems.

There have been the usual ups and downs in the years that have passed, but the dedication of the volunteers has been constant and tireless.

This year will be a banner year for the society. It will, by the end of the release phase, have raised and released to their annual journey, 20 million salmon fry. These will have come from a combination of the hatchery raised fry and smolts from a sea-pen that the society has tended every year for a decade or so, at the government wharf, with the kind support of the Sooke Harbour Authority. This sea-pen is stocked with young smolts from the Nitinat River Hatchery every year and tended by society members.

While, sadly, Jack Brooks has been gone for many years, the society carries on, and no-one represents the dedication of the group more than the member in the center of the photo that accompanies this tale.

Pat Forrest has been a very active member since the first day of this undertaking and is still on site for his share of the work in his 91st year. He and Phil Steele still dedicate many hours in the summer. After the hatchery is in summer hiatus, he and Phil tend fry traps on a weekly basis in our creek and last year alone, saved 2,000 fry from the shrinking pools, moving them to Young Lake so they could survive.

This dedication, from our two oldest members, typifies the commitment of the Society as a whole, to the continuation of a resource that is a vital part of the local environment.

•••

Contributed by Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society.

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