DFO Hatcheries Timeline

The Pacific salmon fishery and salmon stocks have been actively managed since the late 1800s. In the early days harvest rates in some cases reached unsustainable levels. Salmon hatcheries were one method to support harvest while sustaining natural stocks; however, due to funding pressures during the Great Depression, all federal salmon hatcheries in B.C. were shut down and did not return until the 1960s. Today Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Salmonid Enhancement Program operates 23 facilities to enhance salmon stocks (16 hatcheries and 7 spawning channels) along B.C.’s waterways, successfully producing salmon for harvest, stock assessment, and conservation purposes.

DFO hatcheries timeline

Year Species Released Hatchery Description
1963 chinook
chum
coho
Big Qualicum Hatchery near Qualicum Beach Big Qualicum Hatchery was the first of the DFO’s modern enhancement projects to be undertaken in British Columbia and has provided a model for other developments. It is one of the few hatcheries that controls both the water flows through the facility and the water temperature. Visitors can take a self-guided walking tour that includes a viewing area where they can come eye-to-eye with salmon.
1970 sockeye Rosewall Creek Hatchery near Fanny Bay Operated out of nearby Big Qualicum Hatchery, Rosewall Creek Hatchery was developed as a research facility and in 1998 was taken over by the Salmonid Enhancement Program and turned into a captive brood research facility that is not open to the public. Sakinaw Lake sockeye (an endangered species) are reared here throughout their entire life cycle. Adults spawn in the fall; adipose fins are clipped from juveniles onsite in the spring. These are tran- sported back to Sakinaw Lake on the Sunshine Coast for release. The hatchery retains 1,500 fry chosen from three distinct family groups each year to continue the cycle. Only 160 adult Sakinaw Lake sockeye returned to the lake to spawn in fall 2016. The work being done at Rosewall Creek Hatchery is extremely important for the survival of the species.
1971 chinook
chum
coho
pink
steelhead
Capilano River Hatchery, North Vancouver DFO’s first hatchery on the mainland, Capilano River Hatchery is a popular spot with locals and tourists, welcoming over 200,000 visitors annually. The site includes an interpretive centre where visitors can see salmon develop from eggs to juveniles prior to release. Returning salmon can be seen climbing fish ladders by jumping from one pool to the next.
1972 chinook
coho
steelhead
Robertson Creek Hatchery near Port Alberni The Robertson Creek Hatchery began as the largest pink salmon spawning channel in North America; it is now a coho and chinook salmon enhancement facility. The hatchery is the largest chinook hatchery in the Pacific Region and produces close to 7 million chinook smolts, 180,000 coho smolts, and 100,000 steelhead smolts annually. This has contributed to the Alberni Valley’s reputation as a superb sport and guided-fishing destination that attracts visitors from around the world. The hatchery also distributes nutrients onto Great Central Lake to stimulate sockeye juvenile growth.
1973 chinook
chum
coho
pink
Puntledge River Hatchery, Courtenay This hatchery was constructed to rebuild salmon stocks to healthy levels. The Puntledge River once boasted both summer and fall runs of chinook salmon as well as significant numbers of other salmon species and steelhead trout. Most recently, strong Puntledge River chum returns have attracted large numbers of recreational fishers from across Vancouver Island.
1974 Chinook
Coho
Pink
Quinsam River Hatchery near Campbell River Located just outside the “Salmon Capital of the World,” the Quinsam River Hatchery is one of Canada’s largest salmonrearing facilities. The site underwent a major renovation recently and now boasts a new visitor centre with a unique fish floor by Quadra Island artist William van Orden that recreates nearby rivers with salmon, trout, and other native aquatic species.
1978 chinook
chum
coho
Conuma River Hatchery near Tahsis The Conuma River Hatchery serves the isolated and beautiful Nootka Sound, ensuring salmon are plentiful for the commercial, sport and Indigenous fisheries. The hatchery is located halfway between Gold River and Tahsis, two small communities that have experienced economic hardships with recent pulp mill and sawmill closures. The hatchery provides important jobs to these resource-based villages.
1978 chinook
chum
coho
sockeye
Snootli Creek Hatchery near Bella Coola Located in a remote and spectacular natural paradise, the Snootli Creek Hatchery releases millions of salmon fry every year. The facility is in the midst of a five-year multi-million dollar upgrade to modernize and refurbish its aging infrastructure. Several buildings are being consolidated into a single complex, salmon incubation and juvenile rearing systems are being refurbished and replaced, electrical and mechanical systems are being upgraded, and the water supply system and energy efficiency are being improved.
1979 chinook
chum
Little Qualicum Hatchery near Qualicum Beach Little Qualicum is a sister facility to nearby Big Qualicum Hatchery. The Little Qualicum area has long been popular with locals for walking and cycling—the gentle slope of the spawning channel provides an optimal flow rate for fish to breed. Salmon produced at this hatchery are an important source of food for the First Nations food fishery and support the economic development of the Qualicum First Nations.
1980 chinook
chum
coho
Nitinat Hatchery near Port Alberni This facility bears the distinction of being our country’s largest salmon hatchery and annually performs the largest chum salmon egg take in all of Canada. It is a major contributor to the commercial fishery and a thriving sport fishery has developed on Nitinat Lake and surrounding locations along the west coast of Vancouver Island.
1981 chinook
chum
coho
steelhead
Chilliwack River Hatchery near Chilliwack With its easy access from Metro Vancouver, Chilliwack River is the most heavily used recreational fishing stream in B.C. The hatchery was built to help restore salmon populations to historic levels following several decades during which productivity had declined. Staff are assisted each year by volunteer steelhead anglers who participate in a brood collection program. Their efforts have resulted in a sustainable hatchery steelhead fishery.
1982 chinook
chum
coho
pink
cutthroat
trout
steelhead
Chehalis River Hatchery near Harrison Mills The hatchery uses modern fish culture techniques to enhance salmon stocks in the Harrison and Chehalis river systems. Fry and smolts reared here are released into the rivers and migrate to the Fraser River and on to the Pacific Ocean. The hatchery’s work contributes to a year-round sport fishery; local fishers also rely on the hatchery for daily information on local water conditions, access, angling success, and fish numbers.
1982 chinook
chum
coho
Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery near Brackendale Chinook enhancement to the Squamish River system began through the Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery. The facility’s objective is to increase escapements to the Ashlu, Cheakamus, Mamquam, and Squamish rivers through the discrete culture of individual stocks. This program contains vigorous field work through the summer months of rafting, netting, and collecting brood stock. Approximately 200,000 juveniles and smolts are released back into these systems and assessed to ensure DFO’s conservation efforts are successful. Tenderfoot also provides chum eggs for community hatcheries on Bowen Island and pink salmon eggs for North Shore community hatcheries.
1983 chinoo
chum
coho
steelhead
Inch Creek Hatchery, Dewdney In addition to its work rebuilding chum, chinook, coho and steelhead stocks, Inch Creek Hatchery also works on Pitt River sockeye and endangered Cultus Lake sockeye enhancement programs. Visitors also have the opportunity to see two large sturgeons that live in the hatchery pond. These prehistoric wonders are more than two metres long and over 50 years old.
1983 chinook
chum
coho
steelhead
Kitimat River Hatchery, Kitimat The Kitimat River and surrounding area offers some of the world’s best fly fishing for trophy salmon and steelhead. The hatchery has enhanced the river’s chinook, coho, chum, steelhead, and cutthroat fish stocks and its steelhead program means the Kitimat River is one of the only places in northern B.C. where fishers can catch the species (with strict daily and monthly quotas).
1984 chinook
coho
Spius Creek Hatchery near Merritt Our most inland hatchery, salmon released from Spius Creek journey downstream to the Thompson and Fraser rivers, travelling close to 300 kilometres to the sea. Eggs for the hatchery are collected from waterways throughout the mid-Fraser River watershed. They spend up to six months in incubation and then up to 14 months as fry and smolts prior to release.