As the co-ordinator of the Peigan Friends Along the River annual fish rescue, Harley Bastien has a job for life.
And that’s just fine with the man who founded the event 21 years ago with six like-minded individuals.
“As long as the fish are here and I’m able, I’ll keep going,” Bastien said Saturday.
About 30 people turned out Saturday to rescue fish trapped in the flume of the Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District canal.
That’s a far cry from that first year, when Bastien and his six friends used plastic buckets to scoop trapped fish out of the canal to be returned to the Oldman River.
The fish rescue has grown in both scope and sophistication over the past two decades.
Volunteers walk the flume northwest of Fort Macleod several times, pushing the fish to a central location where they are collected in nets, weighed and measured.
The fish are then released into the Oldman River.
The fish would otherwise be trapped in small pockets of ice when water in the drained canal freezes.
Volunteers have rescued an estimated 200,000 fish over the past two decades.
The fish rescue has earned a strong reputation, being nominated three times for an Alberta Emerald environmental award — making the finals twice — and being included on the Crown of the Continent geo-tourism map.
The fish rescue is driven by a core group of volunteers, along with other people who turn out each year.
As long as fish are trapped in the canal, Bastien predicts people will come on the Thanksgiving weekend to rescue them.
“That’s the thing,” Bastien said Saturday. “We have to save these fish.”