Journal archives for October 2021

October 11, 2021

PFAR Fish Rescue 2021

On Saturday October 8, I was invited to participate in the Peigan Friends Along the River (P.F.A.R) Fish Rescue 2021. This annual event has been in operation since 1990 and was founded by Harley Bastien.

Just East of the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site is an irrigation canal that draws water from the Oldman River. Each Fall, Water levels dramatically recede in the irrigation canal asthe water is released at the end of each irrigation season. Fish that had entered the canal during the irrigation season become trapped. The flume (aka aqueduct) is solid concrete and is a bit of a low point where water pools when the canal is drained. It lies directly above the Oldman River. As water dries up throughout the fall and ice forms in winter, any fish left in the flume are likely to die if not rescued.

PFAR organizes an annual “Fish Rescue” each Fall which requires hundreds of volunteers to move the fish through the nearly 1 Kilometer flume. Fish are slowly directed using nets from one end to the other. People of all ages wait anxiously at one end with nets and buckets to catch the fish. Once the fish were caught, they are hoisted out of the canal and placed in oxygenated holding tanks to be identified, measured, and counted. I was not involved with the identification as I know almost nothing about Fish. Professional biologists and students worked diligently to collect data. The holding tanks are then driven down to the edge of the Oldman River on the Buffalo Rocks Tipi Camp (on the Piikani lands) and released back to the Oldman river.

I was only able to participate in the the first “flush” of the flume and with that single effort, thousands of fish were rescued. A communal lunch was then offered to all participants and was absolutely delicious. Once people were replenished, they head back into the flume for another two more rescues.

In 31 years, more than 275,000 fish have been rescued from the flume.

This entire experience was beautiful. People were so kind, friendly, and eager to assist in any way they could. Professional biologists, amateur fisherman, community members, families, conservation organizations, all worked together harmoniously to rescue the fish. This on-the-ground work was a powerful example of indigenous-led conservation that brought in a diverse range of people and backgrounds under a common goal. Few events have humbled me to such an extent, and left me with a new understanding of community, wildlife, and sense of place.

Thank you to Harley, @niitsitapiwaterprotectors, PFAR, and my friend Kora for inviting me and everyone else to participate in this incredible experience.

A short Reel on Instagram covering all the action:

View the fish I was able to document during the fish rescue:

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Posted on October 11, 2021 04:36 PM by wowokayyes wowokayyes | 40 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment