This is my second round of research for this cycle, and I received a lot of great comments on my first round, some of which inspiring me to look into answering them. This round will mainly be focused on the types of salmon in our community, why they are essential to the ecosystem, and what kinds of events my hatchery hosts! Before we start, I'll just reiterate my inquiry question:
How can I promote stewardship of the Hoy Creek Hatchery in my community?
To start off, I received a comment from @Jadyn Anderson (LFAS) that is one of the frequently asked questions I get while I'm working at the hatchery as well, which is: if these fish spawn with the fish from the wild is that okay?
The answer? Absolutely! The salmon we raise at the hatchery are fed and cared for so that they develop very similarly to wild salmon. In fact, the only way to tell the difference between a wild salmon and one of the hatchery salmon is to look at the adipose fin (see picture below); if it's a hatchery salmon, the adipose fin is clipped off as an identification marker (this doesn't harm the fish in any way).
In the Fraser River area, there are five main species of salmon: coho, chum, sockeye, chinook, and pink. Pink salmon only spawn here every second year, and they have a strict two-year breeding cycle; therefore, odd-year and even-year pink salmon do not interbreed. In BC, pink salmon runs occur every odd year (2015, 2017...). (1) Chum salmon are among the biggest salmon species in BC and are very abundant. They don't often make it up Hoy Creek, so as a consequence, we do not raise them. They weigh between 10-14 lbs. (1) Chinook salmon are the biggest of the Pacific salmon species, often weighing up to 40 lbs. This species doesn't spawn in Hoy Creek either, but is abundant in the Fraser River. (1) Sockeye salmon are probably the most well-known because of their noticeable red colour when they return from the ocean to spawn. The Adams River sockeye run is one of the most famous salmon runs in BC due to the great abundance of sockeye salmon that return there every year. (1)
Lastly, the Coho salmon is the main fish that the Hoy Creek hatchery breeds. Although a fairly small fish, they are regarded by anglers as difficult to catch because they are acrobatic, feisty fish. They return to Hoy Creek every year. In the hatchery, we end up breeding approximately 20 Coho salmon. We catch them in a couple of different ways; the main way is by a trap that is set up further upstream that baits the salmon then traps them until we can transport them back to the hatchery. The second is more hands-on, and it's where we catch them by ourselves. This is usually done by using a net and dragging it across the stream bed until we corner the salmon and can put them in a bucket to transport (I'll show pictures below). The process of catching salmon to spawn usually occurs from the end of October to mid-November.
Now, I'll go into more depth with contextualizing the importance of salmon before I move on to talking more about the hatchery. @Joanna Whitter (Charles Best) asked some great questions in the comment she left on my round 1 post, and that happens to be one of the main focuses of this research round. Why do salmon matter?
Salmon have always been one of British Columbia's most important natural resources. Their annual migrations are a must-see event, and their presence gives us indicators regarding the health of the river.
- At least 137 species depend upon the nutrients that salmon provide them with
- Pacific salmon industries are extremely important to the economy, bringing in over $3 billion and creating tens of thousands of jobs.
- Salmon runs function as enormous pumps that push vast amounts of marine nutrients from the ocean to the waters of otherwise low productivity rivers
- The world’s largest sockeye salmon run in Alaska’s Bristol Bay brings in $500 million each year for commercial, recreational, and subsistence fishermen, making salmon essential from both an economical and a health perspective
- Another important factor is the importance of salmon in indigenous communities as they have evolved alongside the salmon. They have always held sacred status for Columbia River tribes. Tlingit people of today’s Southeast Alaska characterize salmon as part of a hidden underwater tribe that comes earthward with each run to offer themselves to the Tlingit, who pay respects by giving back the bones of salmon to the sea, where they will reincarnate for the next run. (2)(3)(4)
At the hatchery, we host two main events a year: Salmon Come Home festival, which is held in mid-November to celebrate the return of the salmon in the creek, and Salmon Leave Home festival, which is where we release the 5 000 salmon fry that have been raised in the hatchery to go to the ocean.
That's all for this round of research! Don't hesitate to leave comments or feedback below!