Roseanne MacFarlane, freshwater biologist for the P.E.I. government, will have to find another source of fish following the closing of the enhancement program at Cardigan Fish Hatchery. (Denis Calnan/CBC)

After almost 80 years of working with government to keep fish populations in P.E.I. waterways healthy, the Cardigan Fish Hatchery is closing its fish enhancement program.

The fish enhancement program was of particular importance following fish kills, when fish with the same genetic makeup as those that had been lost could be returned to the stream. That work had been done in Cardigan since the 1930s.

The Cardigan operation, owned by Dover Fish Hatchery, had been making very little money from the fish enhancement operation, and the regulations for the program are about to change. It used to be managed by the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, but soon will be covered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

"The industry, for good reason, is getting a stricter guideline to follow and we feel it's not in our best interest to continue with doing the enhancement," said Ken Moyaert, VP of Dover Fish Hatchery.

Bruce Smith is chair of the Wildlife Conservation Fund, a group that along with the provincial government helped fund the enhancement program. He said losing the Cardigan operation puts all fish enhancement in jeopardy.

"There's no question, especially for restocking after fish kills. When we want fish of that genetic type they just won't be available," said Smith.

"Unless we can find another hatchery or another group that will raise the fish then we're going to have problems."

Rosanne MacFarlane, a freshwaters biologist for the province, said she will be looking for another provider for fish, something she's never had to do before.

"It'll be a challenge, but challenges and change are often good things," she said.

In the 1980s, river stocking programs received close to $500,000 a year in government funding.

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