Doing the smolt things right

Mowi Canada West

A day in the life of salmon farmer, Kenny Leslie, of Mowi Canada West.

By Kenny Leslie
SeaWestNews

My name is Kenny Leslie, I work for Mowi Canada West at the Big Tree Creek Hatchery as a First Feed Supervisor. I am originally from Scotland and now live here in Campbell River with my family. I have a degree in Environmental Sustainability, and I have been working for Mowi Canada for three years now.

My day starts at around 5 a.m., coffee…it’s a must. Then I work on putting my lunch together.
I will also work to make sure that my son’s backpack is packed, and his outdoor wear is laid out for his days at preschool. It can take a bit of planning – he’s in an outdoor preschool so he needs to be prepared for all conditions in those three hours, especially in Campbell River, which can be quite like Scotland where one can experience all four seasons…in one day.
My daughter, the baby, is usually awake before I leave so whenever possible I will get her dressed and ready for her day.
Lastly, I will wake my wife before I head out the door at 6:20 a.m., I like to let her sleep in as long as possible because her days are as busy with our little ones, as mine is with the little ones at work.
Leaving at 6:20 a.m. will get me down to the parking lot where we park our company vehicles. Once we are all there, the team boards and we head off to work.

My, and the team’s, actual work day starts at 8 a.m. when we arrive at the hatchery. The first order of business is brewing a pot of coffee and sitting down to our safety meeting to go over the site plans and to discuss any issues that may have come up.
I am a part of the day crew – we work Mondays to Fridays – the morning meetings includes an update from the camp crew for each system onsite so that everyone knows how all the fish are doing.

As a first feed supervisor, it is my team’s responsibility to give the little guys, the Alevin, which are the newly spawned salmon still carrying their yolks, a great start. Once we receive the Alevin from Incubation we have to give them some time to “learn to swim” before we even think about feeding them. Once the tank population has reached a point where the vast majority are swimming we will start to introduce feed. It is a slow and gradual process so that we don’t overwhelm the fish or the system.

A typical day has us primarily focussing on feeding, it is our biggest priority.
We have to do it right, and we have to be extremely effective. We will spend the majority of our day feeding or monitoring feeding. We track our efficiency daily and weekly to ensure that what we are putting out to the fish is appropriately utilised – too much is wastage and can cause water quality problems, which we never want to happen. Too little causes poor growth and ultimately starvation, which is also never what we want to happen to the little guys. Food should be presented frequently all day, every day, based on strict monitoring.

We have to also check the quality of our water. We have a list of parameters our water should be within to ensure healthy fish and promote optimum growth. We carry out routine testing and make adjustments to keep the water within the parameters. We monitor the water for natural by-products of growth and digestion, to ensure that the water is sufficiently buffered or that the mechanical systems are performing their role properly.

Throughout the week there are a list of other jobs which need to be done, this includes ensuring that the water flow and current in each tank are precisely correct to promote growth and swimming for the little guys, as well as self-cleaning of the tank. We measure how quickly the tank fills and we use a computer algorithm to ensure that the speed is correct for the size of the fish.
We also ensure that the current is strong enough for the fish to swim against. If the current is too strong they will tire out, and if the current is too weak they will get bored and swim willy-nilly. Ensuring the current is just-right can take a significant amount of time as adjustments can take hours to take full effect.

There is also a long list of cleanings that must be executed.
Each tank needs to be cleaned once a week to remove any algae growth that may start to form. The physical system that cleans the water also needs, in itself, to be cleaned to remove any algae build-up and any particulate that may have settled out of the water.
The mechanical filters need to be pressure-washed to keep them clean and operating at 100% efficiency.
These jobs are critical in their own way to ensure that the water is kept in the best condition for the fish to grow and thrive.

With the fish husbandry and system maintenance we conduct routine sampling – both for growth indications as well as fish health verification.
My role has me overseeing the growth of fish in many systems at the same time. I track the growth of fish groups of this year and compare them to those of previous years. Everything must be recorded of patterns or trends that are forming.

My work day ends at 4:00 p.m. when we drive back to the company’s parking lot in town.
Once home, it’s time to put my dad-hat back on and help with the family’s evening routine – dinner bath and bed.
All in all, both kids are usually in bed by 8 p.m. at the latest. After this, my wife and I can relax a bit and spend some quality time alone.

This is just a snapshot of what a day might look like for me, my job is variable and can always have challenges to overcome at any given time.

RELATED LINKS:

Salmon farmers top eco-efficient animal protein charts: report

Salmon farmers carbon footprint

Paving the way for First Nations aquaculture prosperity

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