This long-established society, commonly known as MESSS (sometimes pejoratively!) was formed to enable interested members both within and beyond the Echo Bay Community to engage in the active enhancement of coho salmon on Gilford Island and mainland inlets in the Broughton Archipelago. It was incorporated under the Society Act on August 1st, 1985. The founding members of the board were Peter Barratt, Dr. Grainger Avery, Dr. John Fitzgerald, Craig Murray of Nimmo Bay Resort, Donald Isner and Spike Nasmyth.
2016/2017 board members:
President: Chris Bennett
Vice president: Billy Proctor
Secretary/Treasurer: Hannah Bennett
Director: Pierre Landry
Director: Yvonne Maximchuk
Director: Albert Munroe
Director: Ted Emmonds
The objectives of the hatchery organization were stated as:
a) The incubation and rearing of salmon stock.
b) The rehabilitation of selected streams to ensure supportive salmonoid habitat.
c) The stocking of selected streams with salmonoid species.
d) To work closely with fisheries officials to ensure sound salmonoid enhancement practice.
THE HATCHERY 1984-2007
Initial funding for a hatchery building and infrastructure, on property offered by Whonnock Logging, was provided by the American “Potato King”, sports fisherman and philanthropist Pete Taggares, who also provided funding for several other BC hatcheries, including the Homalco Hatchery at Orford River, Bute Inlet, Gillard Pass Hatchery and the Stuart Island Hatchery. In all, over many years, Pete contributed 2.3 million dollars to salmon enhancement in Canadian streams.
Initially MESSS’s objective was to enhance coho stocks in Scott Cove, on Gilford Island, and its feeder creeks, as well as several streams in nearby Kingcome Inlet, and to rehabilitate spawning habitat in several streams damaged by logging or overfishing. The community run society, with Bill Proctor at the forefront, worked closely with Fisheries and Oceans Canada over the years to build up the salmon runs in twenty-three streams.
Between 1984 and 2007 numerous streams were stocked annually with coho fry grown in the hatchery building in Scott Cove, nourished by the waters of Scott Cove creek, and lovingly nurtured by Manager Claudia Maas and her several predecessors. In the 1990’s locals observed that the chum salmon population in Viner River had crashed to less than a few hundred spawning adults. A few years of river rehabilitation ensued, funded jointly by Pacific Salmon Foundation, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Interfor Logging Company. A Chum Salmon Enhancement Project for Viner River was initiated in 1999, funded by North Island Fisheries Center, which enhancement efforts continued to 2007 as well.
At the present time, due to community populations declining radically, the society no longer engages in active enhancement but focuses its resources and attention on habitat improvement and on a stock monitoring project in conjunction with DFO. Continued logging on Gilford Island offers a never-ending challenge to the streams and feeder creeks in which coho fry can flourish. In the best of all possible worlds, streams which have had annual additions of fry from hatchery raised eggs for twenty plus years ought, eventually, to no longer require this assistance, however continued habitat damage requires continual repair.
The hatchery society was once was able to summon volunteer assistance from among thirty to forty community members during the three months of the fall when the returning coho spawners were arriving en masse. Like many coastal communities, the population of Echo Bay has dwindled as local resource based work opportunities have disappeared. Currently, Mainland Enhancement of Salmonoid Species Society reaches beyond its actual population to seek assistance, both paid and volunteer, (See Volunteer Opportunities) from amongst university students, offering field experience to those pursuing a career which focuses on salmon populations, and other interested individuals.