Chinook Salmon Experiment May Increase Stocks

“Salmon Fry” by Ilya Dnebosky, GOGCS Photo Collection G2009.029.053

Chinook salmon in many areas of British Columbia are endangered. Carol Schmitt, of the Omega Pacific Hatchery near Port Alberni, is involved with chinook salmon rehabilitation and  is taking a different approach in her experiments with the young salmon.

Usually, when Chinook are introduced into their natural habitats after being raised in a hatchery, they are released at 8 months of age. Schmitt believes the salmon would have a greater success rate in the wild if they are more mature. She argues the fish have not fully evolved their immune systems at 8 months to ward off elements that can harm them, such as ocean bacterial diseases. As such, usually only 1% of the fish return. With her experiment, she is raising the fish in the hatchery and releasing them when they are over one year old. They grow slowly and the conditions they are raised in simulate their natural environment – in colder water to simulate their native streams. She believes the fish, released at a later stage in their growth, will have survival rates 100 times that of the survival rates of the 8 month old chinook; in other words, she expects 10% of the original fish to return.

Carol Schmitt is  releasing trials of 100,000 fish in the Sarita, Phillips and Nahmint Rivers. [Read full article]

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