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Volunteers save Chinook salmon in southern Ontario

Lyndsay Morrison, staff writer
September 25, 2012 — Volunteers are lifting salmon to their spawning grounds in Ontario's Bowmanville Creek in order to ensure their survival this Fall.

Salmon arrived early this year
Salmon arrived early this year

It's a tough job, but dozens of people in southern Ontario say they're willing to do it. 

About 100 volunteers have been lifting Chinook salmon over a dam in the Bowmanville Creek in recent weeks. Despite the slapping, splashing and wriggling away, hundreds of fish have already been saved.  

Bowmanville Creek, east of the city of Toronto, is home to the salmon. However, the fish need to get upstream to their spawning grounds in order to survive. A passageway was built originally for trout in the 1980s, but the salmon are too big to fit into it. 

A local group has raised about $500,000 to build a bypass channel so the salmon can swim upstream, but it isn't finished yet.

The fish began arriving at the spot blocking their path in late July -- the earliest they've ever arrived. 

Catching the fish in nets
Catching the fish in nets

In order to transport the fish, volunteers must net them, grab them by the tail and put them in a sack. The sacks are attached to a cable and pulley system which transports the fish over the dam. Another group of volunteers then releases the fish back into the water. 

Most fish are between 25 to 30 pounds, but some have weighed even more. 

Next year, the salmon should be able to make it upstream to spawn without any help, thanks to the new fish ladder. 

The Bowmanville fish lift is expected to continue until the end of the salmon run at the end of September.

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