Meet the team that helped make the Chinook pen in Sooke possible: From right, Roy Carver, Ward Bond, Glenn Varney, Darren Wright, Chris Gunn, Dan Kukat and Grant Macpherson. (Octavian Lacatusu/Sooke News Mirror)

225,000 Chinook salmon will be released to feed endangered orcas

Around 225,000 Chinook smolts will soon be freed into the ocean thanks to the $500,000 project.

By the end of May, the first batch of around 225,000 young chinook salmon will be released into the ocean to help feed B.C.’s endangered orcas.

The program, the first of its kind locally, involves catching wild fish and facilitating their reproduction in a hatchery – and now the salmon are set to be released from a uniquely-designed pen off the docks of the Sooke Harbour Resort and Marina.

The salmon enhancement project is a multi-year program involving several groups hoping to significantly increase the number of large adult chinook salmon in the Strait of Juan de Fuca during the key pre-winter feeding time of orcas.

The project is separate from the Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society, although it works in tandem with its efforts of revitalizing salmon supply in local waters. Additionally, it’s meant to help maintain a healthy population of orcas, as chinook salmon are their basic meal.

“Abundance of the southern resident killer whales and the health of their population depends very strongly on the abundance of chinook salmon,” said Dan Kukat, owner of Spring Tide Victoria and a co-member of several groups which helped the project come to fruition.

Kukat added part of the concern is the abrupt drop in chinook salmon since the 1980s.

“More food on the table, more whales, less food on the table, less whales, it’s that simple,” he said.

It’s more than just feeding orcas though, said Chris Bos, president of the South Vancouver Island Anglers Association, noting the project will be beneficial to Sooke when those fish return in three years as adults.

“If you put more chinook out there mid-July and mid-September annually, and in three years time, you’ll have thousands of additional large chinook out there,” Bos said, adding First Nations, such as the local T’Sou-ke First Nation will benefit from the project.

“First Nations who haven’t had a food, social and cultural fishery for many decades here on chinook will now have that opportunity again.”

Bos highlighted that the $500,000 project, all privately-funded, is not a fish farm, as the fish are grown in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans—certified hatcheries, then given a boost in the pen to make them the optimal size going into the ocean phase of their life, usually weighing no more than six grams.

“They miss all the problems born in the gravel, without all those potential factors, such as predators,” he said.

The fish are from Nitinat River wildstock.

Just Posted

Colwood field lacrosse camp aims to get more kids involved

Victoria Field Youth Lacrosse hopes to inspire future athletes

Esquimalt gives six-storey rental complex the green light

A new apartment building is set to go up on Admirals Road

Victoria veteran receives French Legion of Honour, becoming knight of France

Ted Vaughan was a pilot in the 408 “Goose” Squadron in WW2

Witness the passion and fire of flamenco in Victoria this July

Seventh annual Victoria Flamenco Festival features free and ticketed performances downtown

Sidney youth bowl over the competition, head for nationals

Youngsters take Mens and Womens Singles Championships at recent tournament

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Canadian high school science courses behind on climate change, says UBC study

Researchers found performance on key areas varies by province and territory

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in Canada’s airline industry

‘It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors’

Most Read