NEW – SVIAC’s Unique Project to Generate Food for Killer Whales
Sooke Chinook Enhancement – Phase One
2016 – 2017 Project Summary:
South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition (SVIAC), working with the T’Sou-ke First Nation, the community of Sooke and other interested partners including the Juan de Fuca Salmon Restoration Society and the Pacific Whale Watching Association, are going to strategically out-plant juvenile Chinook salmon into the Sooke Basin close to the mouth of the Sooke River. The rationale of the project is to increase adult Chinook abundance in the area of Sooke Basin and Juan de Fuca Strait near Sooke.
The principal objective of this multi-year initiative is to increase the preferred food supply (large adult Chinook) for Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW). Having been listed as endangered by both Canadian and the United States governments for more than a decade, these Orcas require preferred prey food certainty as part of any mandatory recovery plan. Certain Southern BC Chinook stocks, especially Fraser stream-type, are at or hovering near low abundance levels, resulting in less food availability during the spring and summer months. The enhancement and conservation project has high rebuilding value, providing extra preferred prey food in the Juan de Fuca Strait during a key pre-winter feeding period.
SVIAC has secured DFO approval for year one of this multi-year initiative with 200,000 Nitnat River Hatchery origin Chinook smolts. These Nitnat River juvenile fish will be raised at DFO’s Nitnat Hatchery and placed in our temporary marine enclosures in the Sooke Basin for two to four weeks in the spring of 2017. Once verified as disease free, acclimatized to the Sooke River freshwater signature and well fed, the smolts will be released. After three years of swimming freely in the Pacific Ocean those Chinook will return to the Sooke area as large adult fish, some over well 30 lbs. Our intention for the project is to ramp up the volume of Chinook smolts out-planted each year to reach an optimum quantity of 2,000,000 annually.
As already stated, the project will benefit SRKWs. Should there be a significant quantity of salmon return and be unexploited by the Orcas, the T’Sou-ke First Nations and local recreational fisheries would harvest the excess to spawning requirements in the Sooke Basin and approach waters, thus avoiding too many adult Chinook in the river.
In addition, there will be high social value to T’Sou-ke First Nation and high economic value to the local Sooke economy through increased tourism, eco-tourism and recreational fishing. Any potential impacts can be ameliorated or reduced to be inconsequential.