The Gillard Pass Fisheries Association
Gathering the salmon
Every year in Late August and early September, volunteers from the Stuart and Sonora Island community travel to the Phillips River on the mainland of British Columbia to collect a few healthy wild Phillips River Chinook salmon. Using small seine nets moved by hand and small boats in the deeper holding pools, the volunteers corral the fish and select a variety of small, medium and larger Chinook for the hatchery to use as their brood stock. This is an incredible undertaking to watch, as the GPFA volunteers always seem to find some impressively big salmon every year.
Back at the hatchery on Sonora Island, salmon eggs are manually fertilized. Once the eggs have hatched and the small fish have grown into fry, the juvenile salmon are moved into larger freshwater tanks at the hatchery with lots of fresh water flowing through. The hatchery provides food for the tiny fish while they grow to be about 3.5-4 inches in length.
Releasing the salmon
In early May, the salmon have reached the right size and are ready to go back to the Phillips River to begin their life in the wild. Before they are ready to return to the river though, they are tagged with a coded wire tag which is inserted into their head. Their adipose fin is clipped, to identify they originated from a hatchery. When an angler notices the missing fin, they know to save the head for the Department of Fisheries (DFO) to recover the tag. This program provides great information on salmon migration patterns and helps the DFO with their assessments and management. Once the fish have been clipped and tagged, they are transported by huge water buckets carried by a helicopter back to the Phillips River. The juvenile salmon will live out the rest of their life just as a wild salmon would, returning back to the Phillips River to spawn approximately 4 years later.