We're celebrating 150 Years of the Miramichi Fish Hatchery!

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The Miramichi Fish Hatchery located at the Miramichi Salmon Conservation Centre (MSCC) has the distinction of being the oldest operating fish hatchery in Canada. It was constructed in 1873 by the federal government on Stewart Brook, a tributary of the Northwest Miramichi River, located in South Esk, New Brunswick.

The Miramichi Fish Hatchery was established to address a decline in salmon stocks due to loss of habitat by dam construction for log drives and an intense commercial fishery. The facility’s aim was to improve the survival rate of salmon from egg fertilization to first-feeding fry, a critical period during the salmon life-cycle.

During its early years, the hatchery would purchase live adult Atlantic Salmon from commercial trapnet fisherman to use as broodstock for spawning and fry-stocking. These trapnets were located near the mouth of the fish hatchery brook, in the estuary, or above the head of tide. Fish were trapped live and placed in wooden crates, where they would be towed to the hatchery holding pond.

Transportation was one of the limiting factors in the operation of a fish hatchery in the 1800’s. Without motorized vehicles, fish had to be transported in tanks of water by horse and wagon, boat, or train. Being accessible by road and water, and within proximity of the Derby Junction railway, meant the Miramichi Fish Hatchery was ideally located to distribute fry to various sidings along the Southwest Miramichi River.

In the early 1900’s, a satellite hatchery was constructed in Juniper to address issues transporting live fry to the uppermost Southwest Miramichi River. This hatchery was known as the Sparkle Sub-Hatchery. In the early spring, prior to hatching, eggs would be shipped to Sparkle from the Miramichi Fish Hatchery in South Esk. Sparkle was closed after the construction of the Florenceville Fish Hatchery.

The Miramichi Fish Hatchery has contributed to salmon conservation efforts through stocking for 150 years, with up to 12 million eggs produced in certain years, thanks in large part to the hatchery technicians and fish scientists who have overseen its operation:

1873 - 1877 - A.B. Wilmot

1877 - 1914 - Isaac Sheasgreen

1914 - 1917 - William Sheasgreen

1917 - 1918 - James Sheasgreen

1918 - 1948 - Frank Scott Burgess

1948 - 1960 - Neil Morrison Jordan

1960 - 1970 - Philip B. Stratton

1970 - 1991 - F. Arlie Wynn

1991 - 2022 - Mark J. Hambrook

2022 - Present - Holly Labadie

In 1994, the Main Hatchery Building became a Recognized Federal Heritage Building (Joan Mattie, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 93-090) because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values. This building showcases a Classical Revival style of architecture popular in government buildings in the early 20th century. 

In 1997, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans transferred the hatchery, and the responsibility for stocking salmon in the Miramichi River, to the local community through the Miramichi Watershed Management Committee. This umbrella organization is made up of several conservation groups, corporations, outfitters, and guiding associations from the region. The Miramichi Salmon Association operates the fish hatchery on behalf of the Committee.

In 2006, the Miramichi Salmon Association renovated the South Esk property into a major center for Atlantic salmon research, known as the Miramichi Salmon Conservation Centre.

The MSA continues to pursue funding opportunities to revitalize this historic facility. If your organization is interested in granting funds for the renovation and upkeep of the Miramichi Fish Hatchery or the MSCC, please contact butch@miramichisalmon.ca.

Additional Reports

Please see below for further information on the history of the Miramichi Fish Hatchery.

Prince, E.E. “The Progress of Fish Culture in Canada.” (Dept. of Marine and Fisheries - 38th Annual Report, 1905).

Wilmot, Samuel. “Letter to the Honorable A.J. Smith, Minister of Marine and Fisheries.” (1873)

Denys, Nicholas “The Description and Natural History of the Coasts of North America.” (Trans. And ed. By Ganong, W.F., the Champlain Society, Toronto, 1908), p.199.

Gubbins, Joseph. “Gubbins' New Brunswick Journals, ed. Howard Temperley.” (Fredericton: King's Landing Corporation, 1980), p. 80.