President Chris Bos and the board of directors of South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition (SVIAC) are ecstatic that the first major phase of our Sooke Chinook Enhancement project is now a reality. After two years of planning, gaining community support, seeking the necessary approval, fundraising and organizing this important project, the first tangible signs of progress are unmistakeable. Our 220,000 Chinook smolts are in their new temporary home in the Sooke Basin and are healthy and doing well. The SVIAC “Feed the Endangered Orca” initiative has formally started with its first out-planting. The long-term purpose of our project is to start dramatically increasing adult Chinook salmon abundance in Juan de Fuca Strait.
A huge shout-out must go to all those involved in making our project come to fruition. From the many extremely generous sponsors right through to the dozens of volunteers, all should be recognized for their support. Thanks also to the T’Sou-ke First Nations, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Sooke community at large. The success of this broad-based community project will not only benefit our endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW), but provide improved traditional and public fishing and eco-tourism opportunities too.
Using Chinook raised to smolt stage at DFO’s Nitnat Production Hatchery, the juvenile salmon are being temporarily out-planted to increase their survival. Our specially built 50 foot x 50 foot temporary holding pen is now moored at the docks of the Sooke Harbour Resort and Marina, where the fish are currently located. So far, the pen is holding 220,000 lively Chinook smolts that have started their acclimatization and feeding phase. In two to three weeks’ time, those little fish will be released to continue their life in the open ocean as normal wild salmon. The purpose of using a temporary holding pen is to give these juvenile salmon an early helping hand, making them larger at age, more robust and hence better equipped to survive in the ocean phase of their lives. In three to four years’ time as large adults, they will return to the Strait of Juan de Fuca so as to provide the endangered SRKW with the preferred food they need during the key pre-winter feeding period.
The quantity of Chinook smolts raised in our temporary holding pens will increase each year to a three year annual target of one million. Under normal ocean survival conditions out-planting one million Chinook smolts should result in 15,000 to 40,000 additionally adult Chinook returning to Juan de Fuca annually in mid-July, August and early September.
If you wish to support our worthy project and assist us now or in the future, you can make a donation at the SVIAC official donation page here or participate in the Kiss My Chinook Fishing Event, whose proceeds go to the Sooke Chinook Enhancement project.