From the Cannery Cradle: The Salmonids Have Arrived!

Submitted by Senior Interpreter, Lina K.

Each year, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site turns into a temporary nursery to baby coho salmon, courtesy of the Little Campbell Hatchery, as part of the Salmonids in the Classroom program.  

This year, the salmonids arrived on December 11th, after weeks of preparing their new home in a large tank  – affectionately called the “Cannery Cradle” – filled with freshwater filtered and cooled to 6C 

Look closely and you will see the eyes of 30 coho eggs ready to be transferred to the Cannery Cradle.

In the wild, salmon eggs are laid on the bottom of the river under rocks and are soft-shelled so that they can survive their harsh environment. The eggs are very sensitive to light and so they stay in darkness for most, if not all, of the day. In the Cannery Cradle, we try to imitate their natural environment with a gravel bottom and some rocks to form a “redd”.  

When salmon swim upstream to lay their eggs, they will spawn as many as possible for the juveniles’ survival. Salmon have diverse predators, from trout and other fish, to members of their own species, to snakes and birds! Therefore, of 3,500 eggs, only 1,000 hatch into alevin, and only 350 become fry. The Salmonids in the Classroom program offers a better chance to improve the alevin and fry survival rate.  

The program is a great educational opportunity for students to understand, respect and protect the marine ecosystem, and learn how humans are connected to the environment. The Cannery is very lucky to have received special permission to host the salmonid, while not technically being a school or classroom. Through this program, we have been privileged to share this unique insight into the salmon life cycle with hundreds of visitors who have viewed the Cannery Cradle over the years.  

The salmonids will be at the Cannery until next Spring, then the fry will be released back to the Little Campbell Hatchery. If you are unable to visit in person, we will be sharing many photos of them on the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site’s Instagram and Facebook pages.