Aquaculture Association to work with Vale on unique underground fish hatchery

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

EVANSVILLE—As part of its partnerships with other groups to enhance fishing opportunities in the area, the Northern Ontario Aquaculture Association (NOAA) has partnered with Vale Inco, in Sudbury, in the development of a pilot project; an underground fish hatchery, the first of its kind in the world that will benefit the fishery in Sudbury area lakes.

The system design and technology being used for the Vale Inco project could be used to develop small community fish hatcheries on Manitoulin Island, the NOAA notes.

“There are all kinds of partnership projects we are doing with Vale Inco,” stated Mike Meeker, president of the NOAA and owner-operator of Meeker’s Aquaculture in Evansville. “The number one goal with this project is growing fish to stock in lakes that have been affected by mining operations, and in addition to this the program it includes using fish waste to fertilize trees in the underground greenhouse at the same Vale mine.”

Mark Palkovitz of Vale Inco told the Recorder in a recent interview, “we’ve been using quite a bit of Mike Meeker’s (Meeker’s Magic Mix) compost in our tree regreening efforts, purchasing the compost in one ton bags. Mike had wanted to see how things were progressing with this project and I had been to his fish farm in Evansville a couple of times. On one of the visits we were discussing fish farming, and he was pointing out for at least half a year in Northern Ontario it is impossible to grow fish because of the cold weather conditions. I mentioned we have an underground greenhouse and asked if fish could be raised underground. Mike said yes, fish could probably be raised underground as it is about 20 degrees at all times at our mines underground, where the greenhouse is also located in our Creighton (mine). I then went to our public affairs department and they felt this would be a great idea, we are looking to stock area lakes with fish so we agreed to partner on a pilot project this winter with Mike (Meeker).”

Mr. Meeker explained the process includes two six foot diameter tanks (being used at Vale) that are used to raise the fish to be stocked in Sudbury area lakes. He said the process could also be used for small community hatcheries, with the fish raised in the troughs (which can be stored in a small enclosed building or even someone’s basement) and the fish, of any species raised, could then be transferred to one or two small cage-nets to grow to stocking size, and then released in the lake they have grown to stocking size.

“Mike has some information that he would like to share here tonight,” said Jim Sloss, chair of the United Fish and Game Clubs of Manitoulin (UFGCM) at a recent meeting. “These initiatives would provide a lot of choices through aquaculture and rearing of different species of fish for groups and communities like ours on the Island. As we all know, people are always asking why we can’t stock species like perch and walleye on the Island and there are systems around now that we can take advantage of to do this. Mike happens to be looking at a hatchery site in a Sudbury mine.”

Mr. Meeker explained, “the biggest thing is, the technology is out there for small, inexpensive community fisheries programs to be developed. The hatchery in Gore Bay has been successful and the cage culture facility was successful at the fish point in Gore Bay for many years. It has been proven at our (NOAA) Experimental Lake Assessment programs that when these type of small systems using cages-nets are used in small lakes, the condition of the lakes improved. The technology is there now for small community hatcheries to be developed.” He pointed out the use of this system could be done in cooperation with the Ministry of Natural Resources, and that he has discussed the concept with representatives of the MNR who are in favour of considering the process.

At their recent meeting the UFGCM members agreed to form a committee to look at setting up this program and applying for a pilot project on Manitoulin.

EDITORS NOTE: See next week’s Recorder for part two of the story.