Mining may be Vale’s first business, but several of its employees are talking like “fish people” these days. Several of them were at Vale’s Copper Cliff greenhouse Friday, getting ready to release 1,000 walleye yearlings into Ramsey Lake.
The fish project started last year when 4,000 rainbow trout were released into the Onaping River, which had been damaged by years of mining. Glen Watson is senior environmental specialist with Vale. Raising rainbow trout was relatively simple. Raising walleye was another matter, said Watson, “because these guys tend to be cannibalistic.
“That’s the biggest challenge of raising walleye in a tank like this,” he said, pointing to the 1,500-litre container in which the four-to five-inch fish were swimming before being released.
Watson and other Vale employees worked with Mike Meeker of Meeker’s Aquaculture near Evansville on Manitoulin Island on the project. “It’s exciting. It’s fun,” said Watson. “Who wouldn’t want to raise fish and release them into local lakes? This is as good as it gets.”
It took some work to essentially train the walleye to eat pellets instead of each other. Meeker, who has also started raising the fish also called pickerel at his trout farm, said he sourced an Ontario food supplier after importing walleye pellets from Japan, via San Francisco.
At one time, commercial fishers used to catch 80 million pounds of walleye a year, but essentially don’t catch them any more.
Raising this batch of walleye has been an experiment, and an important one, said Meeker.
“We proved that the feed that we have will work for them,” he said.
Laboratory analysis of walleye organ and tissue samples have confirmed they are developing properly and the pellets they are being fed meet their nutritional requirements.
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