The Tofino Salmon Enhancement Society is tackling a massive drop in Chinook salmon stocks and plans to focus on rebuilding the Cypre River population this fall.
“It was a shocking return this year,” Tofino Hatchery manager Doug Palfrey told the Westerly News. “All the Chinook numbers were way, way down.”
The society works to enhance Chinook, Coho and Chum populations throughout Clayoquot Sound and Palfrey was thrilled to see the hatchery receive a $10,000 donation from Ahousaht hereditary chief Richard George and Tyler Huebner of TCH Contracting last month, explaining that the funding will go towards rebuilding Chinook salmon stocks in Cypre River.
“It’s certainly great to have this contribution from Tyler and Richard George,” he said, adding the hatchery also recently received a $4,200 donation from Dave Ward of WardoWest Tofino Sportfishing, which will also go towards the Cypre River project.
“That’s going to be our first priority this fall, the rebuilding of the Cypre River Chinook,” Palfrey said.
He said less than 100 Chinook returned to Cypre roughly 15 years ago, so the hatchery focused its efforts on rebuilding the population and raised it up to 3,000 Chinook returning before focusing its efforts elsewhere.
“Once it reached that level we moved to the Bedwell River, which was really suffering with less than 100 Chinook there. We rebuilt the Bedwell but, unfortunately, at Cypre the returns kept diminishing,” he said.
He said a snorkel survey covering roughly 13 kilometres of Cypre counted only 60 Chinook.
“It was a shocking drop over those two cycles during that time,” he said.
“What happens when we drop the enhancement is, within six or eight years, it goes way back down again, so we have had to start up our enhancement efforts again on Cypre because we’ve left it alone in terms of enhancement for the two Chinook cycles.”
He said his team expects to get to work on Cypre this fall, collecting eggs and bringing them back to the hatchery to be fertilized, incubated and hatched before being returned to the river.
He added the river is roughly a 30 minute boat ride from the hatchery, noting that transportation is a “huge hurdle” in the process as crew and equipment need to travel back and forth.
“You’re looking at a 10-12 hour day just for one stock on one river. We’ll likely have to go back two times at least to get our eggs,” he said.
He said the $14,200 in donations is greatly appreciated, but hopes more funding comes in and encourages anyone wanting to help the hatchery’s efforts out to visit tofinosalmonhatchery.com to donate.
“It would be great to get some more funding to see the project right through,” he said.
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