First Nation's fish stocking program bounces back after hatchery fire

Thanks to a donation from Yukon Energy, the Ta'an Kwach'an Council released about 6,500 fish in Fox Creek on Sunday.

Ta'an Kwach'an Council released 6,500 chinook fry this weekend, thanks to Yukon Energy

About 6,500 chinook salmon fry were released into Fox Creek on Sunday, as part of the Ta'an Kwach'an Council's restocking program. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

Yukon's Ta'an Kwach'an Council released thousands of chinook salmon fry into Fox Creek this past weekend, despite a devastating fire in April that destroyed its Whitehorse hatchery.

"We lost about 32,000 chinook fry in the fire," said Deb Fulmer, the First Nation's fish and wildlife co-ordinator.

That might have seriously hampered the ongoing chinook re-stocking program this year, but thanks to a donation from Yukon Energy, the First Nation released about 6,500 fish on Sunday.

The primary incubation building at the McIntyre Creek hatchery in April, after the fire. The roof collapsed onto the building and about 32,000 fry were killed. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Six thousand of them were from the Whitehorse fish ladder and hatchery, which is operated by Yukon Energy.

"We're very thankful to them for that," said Fulmer.

Jenna Duncan, a fish and wildlife field assistant for the First Nation, had the job of handling every single fry to put an identifying tag in its snout. The tag tells where and when the fry was released. 

Tagging helps keep track of how many fish survive and return to Fox Creek to spawn in future years.

The re-stocking project began in 2009 as an effort to revive the chinook population in Fox Creek. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

"It's a lot of work but it's kind of cool," Duncan said. "It feels great to help out and be a part of continuing, hopefully, the culture."

The re-stocking project began in 2009 as an effort to revive the chinook population in Fox Creek. Fulmer says Ta'an elders spoke about chinook in the creek, but the fish hadn't been found in the creek for decades. Fulmer says it's not known why they disappeared.

'The numbers seem to be increasing every year,' said Deb Fulmer, fish and wildlife co-ordinator for the First Nation. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

So far, the re-stocking has had some success. Fulmer says stocked fish have returned every year for the past five years.

"And the numbers seem to be increasing every year," she said.

"The end goal is to have a sustainable stock in Fox Creek, so that hopefully there can be a [subsistence] harvest for the Ta'an Kwach'an people."

With files from Jane Sponagle