Yukon First Nation tries new way to replenish Chinook salmon stocks
The Teslin Tlingit Council is putting fertilized Chinook eggs directly into Deadman Creek
Chinook salmon that make their way to Teslin Lake have one of the longest salmon migrations in North America — from the Bering Sea to the headwaters of the Teslin River watershed in Yukon. Chinook salmon will travel over 3,000 kilometres upstream to return to their spawning grounds.
But some streams that once were filled with returning salmon in the late summer are now depleted. And the Teslin Tlingit Council is working to bring the fish back to those streams, in a more natural way.
Last year, the First Nation started a pilot project using an innovative technique called in-stream incubation. Fertilized Chinook eggs are put directly into Deadman Creek, a tributary that flows into Teslin Lake.
The method is considered more natural than common fry hatcheries, which keep fertilized eggs until they reach the fry stage and then release them into streams.
The First Nation collects Chinook eggs from fish in the nearby Morley River, to bring elsewhere.
"When we collected the eggs from the other streams, that is our source stock. We basically drive the eggs down the highway to Deadman Creek and we fertilize the eggs right on the edge of the stream," says Gillian Rourke, the First Nation's renewable resources coordinator.
"We use trays to let the eggs harden to prepare them to put directly into the gravel." said Rourke.
30,000 eggs in 2 years
She says some creeks in the Teslin watershed haven't seen Chinook salmon return for over 30 years. And Rourke says it could take up to eight years to see if the Chinook salmon return to spawn in Deadman Creek.
"The fry that are hatching are more natural sizes, and there is the natural selection at play, meaning that the salmon that do survive are expected to be your stronger, better survivors," Rourke said.
The goal of the project is fertilize up to 30,000 eggs in the next two years, she says.
The Teslin Tlingit Council has outlined its plans in documents filed with the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board (YESAB). The project requires a license to transplant or transport live fish or fish eggs.
The public comment period is open until July 12.
The project is being funded by the Yukon River Panel Restoration and Enhancement Fund.