October 11, 2014 9:02 pm
Updated: October 11, 2014 9:24 pm

Wildlife rescue south of Calgary is helping save hundreds of fish

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WATCH ABOVE:  A wildlife rescue south of Calgary is helping save hundreds of fish this weekend. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, fish that otherwise would be left to die in irrigation canals, are being freed.

CALGARY- Trout Unlimited and Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource (ESRD) hope to save thousands of fish in their annual fish rescue operation in the Carseland area. Fish that would otherwise be left to die in irrigation canals, are being freed.

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Hundreds  of fish get trapped at the irrigation canal at the Carseland weir, with no way back to the Bow River, as the water level drops. Experts say most irrigation diversion structures on river systems do not have adequate infrastructure to keep fish out.

But through electro fishing, nets and big bucket brigade, the fish are saved. The rescue involves a lot of heavy lifting and icy water.

“We’ll save millions of fish, because if we leave the fish out here they could really die. I think it’s terrible,” young volunteer Hunter White said.

Volunteers joined Trout Unlimited and Alberta environment staff. Their goal was to rescue as many fish as possible.

“We know that we are returning some large fish some spawners mountain whitefish and brown trout would be sponsoring this time of year so if we can get them back to the rivers and we know those individuals will be able to contribute to the next part,” Leslie Peterson from Trout Unlimited said.

But it’s not just the fish that benefit. It’s a learning experience for volunteers of all ages and volunteer Shawna MacAlpine says a whole new appreciation of all the life rivers hold.

“I think it’s important for kids to have exposure to fish and see how important they are to the ecosystem i think it’s important for them to feel comfortable around them and that they’re not icky,” MacAlpine said.

Most of the bigger canals in Alberta don’t have structures that stop fish from getting in, in the first place.  Trout Unlimited is pushing to have the devices installed, something the province is considering.

“It is a much more prominent part of the discussion then what it once was. You have to remember that a lot of the canals were built decades ago, when the thought of whether or not fish were being herded into canals was not likely much of a consideration. So in that sense we are kind of catching up to that discussion, Mike Byrski from ESRD said.

The fish are identified, measured and returned to the Bow River. The aquatic liberation is a relief to the determined young rescuers.

“They would freeze to death and if that happens, no fish will ever survive ever again,”  volunteer Hunter White said.

Over the past 17 years, Trout Unlimited Canada and volunteers have rescued over 8000 fish.

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