A large shoal of 70 healthy salmon and a much-loved octopus have been released back into B.C. waters, following a stay at Sidney’s aquarium.
Assisted by volunteers, staff from the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea took the salmon down to Sidney Pier in special tanks, before releasing them into the ocean. The process was overseen by Chief Aquarist Kit Thornton, and was not without challenges as the fish were 2.5 years old and “substantially sized.”
“We teach about the salmon life cycle and the importance of salmon to our oceans and communities,” says Pauline Finn, executive director of the Shaw Centre. “Folks tend to relate to salmon as they are so culturally significant here and people recognize salmon as being pretty core to west coast thinking and west coast life.”
The salmon arrived at the centre as smolts from the Goldstream Hatchery, and helped teach thousands of visitors about their life cycles and behaviour over the course of their stay. However now they have reached adulthood, they are being released back into the wild to help support wild salmon populations.
Another graduate of the centre is Buttercup, its much loved cephalopod. Christened after the winning entry in a springtime naming competition, Buttercup is a Giant Pacific Octopus and was released in Ucluelet, where she was found last year. The Giant Pacific Octopi are not just hits with visitors but are much loved by staff as well. Aquarists devise a series of enriching challenges for octopi like Buttercup, such as putting their food inside boxes, forcing them to look for their food.
“The staff all miss them and they all have very different personalities. They are highly intelligent animals,” says Finn.
The centre has received a new batch of 160 salmon smolts and the process will now begin anew. It has a number of events scheduled this August, including Science Secret Agents, Sea Shirt Sunday and the free Low Tide Beach Exploration Day on Aug. 1 at 10:30 a.m. There are also a couple of spots left in its summer camp program and the centre is seeking donations through the Sidney by the Sea 8k/5k run after being selected as one of the two charities. For more information on the centre, or these events, visit salishseacentre.org.