The Mersey Biodiversity Facility was built in the 1960's on land leased from Nova Scotia Power. By the end of the decade they were rearing salmon out of the facility for recovery efforts.
The Queens County Fish and Game Association's work with the facility has gone on nearly as long. Over the past 30 years the group has partnered with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the operators of the site, which led to many expansions over the years.
David Dagley, secretary of the association, says production was tripled at the site, by increasing the rearing ponds and upgrading the holding ponds. The work over the years has amounted to about $1.5 million in grants that came through the association.
The goal of all this work has been to preserve and stock the Atlantic Salmon in the rivers. The Medway River has been closed to salmon angling since 1996, and many other rivers have had similar closures. The hope was restocking and other efforts the association was involved with would eventually bring the population back and reopen to angling.
The hatchery also did extensive live gene banking. This involved capturing wild parr (juvenile salmon) in the Medway River, and raising them to adulthood at the facility. After they would be released back into the wild.
Since the population of wild salmon was decreasing at an alarming rate, this program was to ensure there was enough genetic diversity in the fish.
Dagley was at a species at risk conference on the week of May 20, and it turns out Medway population has one of the highest genetic diversities on the South Shore thanks to these efforts.
The program ended a few years ago for the Medway River, but the same technique was being used in the Bay of Fundy. Salmon in the Bay of Fundy are listed as endangered.
The Mersey facility has also worked closely with the Coldbrook facility in Kings County, says Dagley. Mersey acted as the production facility, spawning the eggs and hatching them in the Spring. Coldbrook was used as a summering habitat. Dagley doesn't think Coldbrook could be used as a full time production centre due to its location.
"The difficulty with Coldbrook is their production capacity, and that's mainly due to the size of the land they own."
The Mersey facility was also involved with Acadian whitefish recovery. The whitefish are only found in the Petite Riviere water system. While the salmon production may move, says Dagley, the whitefish recovery program has ended.
Dagley says the facility has gained a good reputation over the years, thanks to the hard work of the managers and staff.
"It's a world class facility. The hatchery practices at Mersey were far ahead of the world for a long time," says Dagley. "People speak well of the capability and dedication of the staff at Mersey."
The closure comes at a particularly bad time for salmon recovery efforts on the South Shore. At the conference Dagley attended, the delegates made the recommendation to place South Shore salmon on the endangered species list. That could take several years to pass through the legislature however, and by then the Mersey facility will be closed.
This isn't the first time the facility looked as though it would close though. The last time was in 1996, and the association lobbied to keep it open. Not only were they successful, both the Mersey and Coldbrook facilities expanded.
Dagley says now that the closure has been made official, the association is gathering to plan their next move and speaking with their political contacts.