VOLUNTEERS from numerous agencies work together to collect salmon for research purposes at Williams Creek.

VOLUNTEERS from numerous agencies work together to collect salmon for research purposes at Williams Creek.

Agencies team up to help salmon

IT WAS a wild time at Williams Creek as several people from many different organizations descended on the waters to catch sockeye salmon for one day last week.

IT WAS a wild time at Williams Creek as several people from many different organizations descended on the waters to catch sockeye salmon for one day last week.

“Wild male released, wild male kept, wild female kept and wild female released” rang out as fish were taken out of the nets that caught them.

The fish, which measured about 500mm or a bit more, glistened bright red, a sign of their old age as they were nearing the end of their life span, according to one person, who collected tiny heart-shaped bones, otoliths, that others pulled out from inside the head of each fish and that would be looked at closer to determine the fish’s age.

As well, eggs and sperm were being collected to be incubated and raised to fry at the Smootli Creek Hatchery in Bella Coola, which has the facilities and expertise to do this,  said Margaret Kujat, local consultant and project coordinator.

But first the eggs are tested for diseases to ensure the fry will be healthy; diseased eggs are destroyed.

Everyone here was working on different projects to do with the salmon; for Kujat, it was the Fry Outplant, part of a conservation project to conserve the Lakelse sockeye salmon fish stock, which has been deemed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to be a species of concern, said Kujat.

“It went quite well. We were done in pretty good time and got them off and they arrived there yesterday afternoon all tickety boo,” said Kujat about how the day went, and referring to the fish eggs being flown to Bella Coola.

A number of agencies were working together to collect the information they were looking for.

The agencies included Lakelse Watershed Society volunteers, BC Parks, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Community Involvement,  DFO Habitat Resource Restoration and DFO Habitat Technicians.

For Kujat, the goal was to collect 110 females and 110 males to ensure a certain number of eggs could be released, about 300,000.

It was also to account for those eggs that might not survive or might get wiped out as fry when returned to Williams Creek, the waterway where they return to spawn.

“We hope from the eggs that we will produce 300,000 live fry. From the eggs we took yesterday (Aug. 19), through the life stages are various mortalities. Some never fertilize, some eggs die, some fry die. Not everything survives. Typically sockeye have varying number of eggs per female,” said Kujat.

Now the work is being done at the hatchery and all the eggs will be fertilized, each fish’s eggs will be put in their own individual trays, she said.

Once the results are known from the samples tested for diseases, the Smootli hatchery either keeps the healthy eggs or destroys the diseased eggs.

“Sockeye have quite an amazing little life cycle, “ said Kujat, adding that by February they will know how many fry are planned to be released in spring.

The fry that come from the eggs collected will be released back into Williams Creek in spring, the same time as the wild fry emerge from the gravel – the time is determined by the temperature of the water, said Kujat.

The project has been going on since 2007 and some of the fish that were raised at the hatchery were caught and released last week, she added.

Volunteers could distinguish the hatchery salmon from the wild ones by the lack of an adipose fin, which is located right in front of the tail on the fish’s back, that is cut off on hatchery fry without affecting them.