Cowichan River Hatchery Project
The Cowichan River Hatchery project, located near Duncan on Vancouver Island, was initiated in 1978 as a partnership between Cowichan Tribes and Fisheries and Ocean Canada to enhance the Cowichan and Koksilah River salmon stocks, obtain stock information, increase fish production, provide employment, contribute to the local economy and improve relations between the partners.
The hatchery operates with Atkins boxes, substrate boxes and Heath trays for incubation and with trough and concrete raceways. PST chinook Technical Committee identified Cowichan chinook as an important Lower Georgia Strait stock in need of rebuilding. Marked (coded-wire tagged or fin-clipped) hatchery stocks provide much of the critical data for determining catch distribution, survival and exploitation rates. Selected hatchery stocks are also used for stock management and as indicators of the stock status for both wild and hatchery stocks in their area. Cowichan is used as an indicator of Lower Strait of Georgia stocks.
There was a major hatchery expansion in 1991, accompanied by a significant increase to chinook targets, designation as a key indicator for Canada/US treaty, and initiation of lake and sea pen rearing strategies.
In 2005, the hatchery assumed responsibility for the rotary screw trap, adult chinook counting fence, and chinook dead pitch programs.
Current project objectives are to:
- rebuild Cowichan chinook population (3,000,000 egg target) by operation of chinook hatchery program
- rebuild threatened Lake Tributary coho stocks through program of salvaging wild fry from drying habitats in spring, feeding and hatchery over summer, marking, and returning to stream of origin in fall; program is assessed through partnership with Cowichan Lake Salmon enhancement society and Stock Assessment Division (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
- implementation of integrated chinook stock assessment program on Cowichan River (Rotary screw trap, counting fence, dead pitch, biological sampling program)
- increase awareness in community as to importance and fragility of salmon resource
- run school education program
- provide training opportunities and stable employment for First Nations community
- participate in roundtable planning processes (water use planning, production planning, harvest issues, etc.)
Partner group: Cowichan Tribes
Project manager: Don Elliott
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