Interior hatchery resurrected to incubate chinook fry caught at Big Bar Slide

Gord Sterritt with the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance enumerating chinook in the Upper Fraser River region of Tete Jeune Cache with Mt. Robson in the background. (Shane Kalyn photo, property of the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance)Gord Sterritt with the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance enumerating chinook in the Upper Fraser River region of Tete Jeune Cache with Mt. Robson in the background. (Shane Kalyn photo, property of the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance)
A fish wheel is being used to catch early run chinook salmon in the Fraser River that are unable to make it past the Big Bar Slide for use in a conservation enhancement program this summer. (Gord Sterritt photo)A fish wheel is being used to catch early run chinook salmon in the Fraser River that are unable to make it past the Big Bar Slide for use in a conservation enhancement program this summer. (Gord Sterritt photo)
The hatchery at Likely is being rejuvenated to raise chinook salmon. (Richard Holmes photo)The hatchery at Likely is being rejuvenated to raise chinook salmon. (Richard Holmes photo)
Interior hatchery resurrected to incubate chinook fry caught at Big Bar Slide
Chinook salmon are the focus of a project using adults retrieved from the Big Bar Slide that cannot get through on their own due to water levels in the Fraser River. (Guy Scharf photo)                                Chinook salmon are the focus of a project using adults retrieved from the Big Bar Slide that cannot get through on their own due to water levels in the Fraser River. (Guy Scharf photo)Chinook salmon are the focus of a project using adults retrieved from the Big Bar Slide that cannot get through on their own due to water levels in the Fraser River. (Guy Scharf photo) Chinook salmon are the focus of a project using adults retrieved from the Big Bar Slide that cannot get through on their own due to water levels in the Fraser River. (Guy Scharf photo)
Chinook salmon spawning in the Fraser River near Tete Jeune Cache. ((Shane Kalyn photo, property of the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance)                                Chinook salmon spawning in the Fraser River near Tete Jeune Cache. ((Shane Kalyn photo, property of the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance)Chinook salmon spawning in the Fraser River near Tete Jeune Cache. ((Shane Kalyn photo, property of the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance) Chinook salmon spawning in the Fraser River near Tete Jeune Cache. ((Shane Kalyn photo, property of the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance)

Early run chinook salmon unable to migrate past the Big Bar Slide on their own due to high water levels are being used to enhance dwindling stocks in tributaries of the Upper Fraser.

“It is a huge undertaking with a lot of moving parts,” said Gord Sterritt of the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance (UFFCA).

As a member of the joint executive steering committee formed a year ago in response to the slide, Sterritt has been involved with providing overall direction and decision making on work that is ongoing.

Adult chinook salmon are being caught at the Big Bar Slide area using a fish wheel and transported above the slide to French Bar Creek where they undergo DNA sampling to try to pair them based on their natal stream of origin, he explained.

They are then being transported by truck to the Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre in Vanderhoof where they will be held until they are ripe and their eggs or sperm can be collected sometime between the middle of August to the first week of September, their natural spawning period.

From there, some of the eggs and sperm will be transported to the Quesnel River Research Centre (QRRC) near Likely which was once a production hatchery for Fisheries and Oceans Canada and is presently part of the University of Northern B.C. (UNBC).

“There is some capacity to bring in eggs and incubate those eggs to fry and then from there we’ll figure out what to do — hold them or release them immediately back into the wild,” Sterritt said. “There’s a suite of different options.”

Fisheries biologist Richard Holmes, who has worked for both UNBC and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and at the hatchery in Likely beginning in 1981, is involved with rejuvenating the hatchery for the incubation project.

“I’m happy to help,” he said. “I’m still a fisheries biologist entrenched with trying to improve the dire straits the stocks are in right now, especially the salmon.”

He said more recently Fisheries and Oceans Canada has used the hatchery to raise a small amount of fish for the salmonids in the classroom program, but on a production scale it has not been used since around 2000.

Last week excess incubation framework, incubation trays and stacks were brought in from DFO’s Snootli Creek Hatchery in Bella Coola to the Likely facility and were being installed this week.

Conservation enhancement isn’t just about producing more fish, it’s about trying to save runs, Holmes said, noting the Big Bar Slide has put a lot of pressure on early migrating salmon.

Read more: ‘Almost complete loss’ of early salmon runs at Fraser River slide last year: DFO

Later on in the summer, salmon will be able to migrate on their own, when the Fraser River levels are not so high.

Holmes said about 150 adult chinook will be retrieved in the next few weeks, hopefully to enhance the Tete Jaune, Willow and Bowron River runs.

“Those are the three we are looking to enhance, but that may change as the days move forward. We may not catch enough of those so we may drop down and target another stream in the Upper Fraser that’s in jeopardy.”

There are at least 52 separate chinook stocks above the slide area, he added.

DNA sampling takes a few days and hopefully will determine who the fish are and where they are headed.

It is anticipated there will be up to 400,000 eggs collected if all goes well, with 75 to 80 per cent fry reared at another DFO facility in the Lower Mainland and the remainder at the hatchery in Likely for release later into the Upper Fraser natal streams.

Sterritt said the slide response has been a tri-government approach involving federal, provincial and First Nations that has been evolving over the year.

Initially it was a slide response.

Over the winter it moved to a mediation response and now it is about fish transport and improving access for the fish to get to the Upper Fraser, including into the Quesnel, Horsefly and Chilcotin regions.

Holmes said the entire project is in response to a request by First Nations to start critical enhancement for conservation of fisheries from stocks they are reliant on that are not coming back anymore.

Witnessing the salmon decline first-hand throughout his 40-year career has been very disappointing, he said.

“Salmon are more than a million years old. They’ve been around a long time and it’s only taken us our brief lifetime to put them in jeopardy.”

As for the project, he described it as a great collaboration between First Nations, DFO and UNBC.

“The facility in Likely was designed to enhance chinook stocks from a number of different rivers when it was first built. It’s come first circle.”

Sterritt said they aren’t only dealing with the slide, but record low returns.

“It’s been compounding. We know that chinook returns to the Fraser River, and Upper Fraser especially, are pretty much the lowest on record. The records go back at least 100 years.”

Even with the emergency enhancement, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to improve conditions, he added.

“Any fish that are returning to tributaries above the Big Bar slide are almost all listed as a species at risk,” Sterritt said.

Read more:Feds committed to protecting, restoring declining Fraser River chinook stocks: Fisheries Minister



news@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Chinook salmon protection

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bella Coola Valley Arts Council’s (BCVAC) Ida Eriksen enjoys a full life since retiring to the Bella Coola Valley Coola in 2013. She volunteers for BCVAC and likes to carve out time for art, gardening and hiking. (Photo submitted)
Art House Gallery keeps community connections close during COVID times

An art sale of the artwork of Ernest and Jill Hall will take place this weekend

A grass fire west of Williams Lake, seen here Tuesday, is considered to be being held by members of the BC Wildfire Service. (Photo submitted)
Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

A black bear tries to get at a bird feeder at a home near Williams Lake. (Laura Ulrich photo)
Managing bear attractants a top priority in B.C. for 2021: Conservation Officer Service

Garbage, fruit trees, bird feeders, compost and livestock are common attractants for bears

B.C. Cattlemen’s Association general manager Kevin Boon. (B.C. Cattlemen’s Association photo)
COVID, BSE, water access and private land rights: B.C. Cattlemen’s general manager weighs in

Kevin Boon said positive aspect of pandemic is more people interested in where their food comes from

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Since April 4, 38 flights with COVID-19 cases have departed from Vancouver International Airport, while 23 arrived. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Vancouver the largest source of domestic flights with COVID-19 cases: data

This month alone, 38 flights with COVID-19 cases have departed from Vancouver International Airport, while 23 arrived

Most Read