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Yukon chinook salmon incubator increases capacity

Renovations to the McIntyre Creek Salmon Incubation Facility mean its capacity has gone from 20,000 chinook eggs to a potential 200,000.

Upgrades to McIntyre Creek facility mean thousands more chinook fry will be released

Thousands of chinook fry are held in tanks at the McIntyre Creek Salmon Incubation Facility until they're big enough to be released. (Mardy Derby/CBC)

It's a small and modest-looking facility, but it's home to tens of thousands of creatures — tiny chinook salmon fry.

The McIntyre Creek Salmon Incubation Facility in Whitehorse has just seen a major upgrade, meaning a tenfold increase in its capacity for salmon eggs. It used to hold up to 20,000 eggs, now its capacity is closer to 200,000.

The eggs hatched earlier this spring, so now the small fry fill a number of tanks on site until they're ready to face the world.

Recent renovations have increased the incubator's capacity to a potential 200,000 salmon eggs. (Mardy Derby/CBC)

"Eventually we'll release them in Fox Creek drainage, and then they're off to live their lives," said Shannon Harvey, a Yukon College student who works as an attendant at the facility.

The fish are tagged before release, so it's possible to keep track of how many from this facility return to Yukon to spawn.

"We had nine return last year, so we're hoping that more will keep coming back and our progress will just continue to grow," Harvey said.

Restoring Yukon River chinook runs

The goal has been to help restore and enhance chinook, or king, salmon runs in the Yukon River, which have dwindled in recent years. Two decades ago, the chinook run averaged more than 300,000 fish. Since 2008, fewer than half that number have returned to the Yukon River. 

'We’ll be here as long as the money keeps coming, and people still have a need for it,' said Shannon Harvey, a Yukon College student who works as an attendant at the facility. (Mardy Derby)

The incubator has been around since the 1990s. For years, it was operated by the nearby Whitehorse Correctional Centre.

In 2002, the Northern Research Institute at Yukon College took over administration of the facility. Funding has come from a variety of courses, including the federal and territorial governments, the Pacific Salmon Commission, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, the Yukon River Panel, and the Ta'an Kwach'an Council.

"So, we'll be here as long as the money keeps coming, and people still have a need for it," Harvey said.

With files from Mardy Derby

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