Submitted by Jordan Uittenbogaard, Operations Manager, Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery
The Howe Sound Chinook program is a unique program based out of Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery which supports various fisheries in British Columbia. Some of these fisheries include a recreational fishery in Howe Sound, a First Nations fishery in the Cheakamus River, and the program is also know to contribute to the conservation of the depleting Chinook salmon stocks in the Squamish watershed. The original brood stock for this program comprised of Chinook sub-stocks from the Squamish River. These stocks included the Squamish, Ashlu, Mamquam, and Cheakamus Rivers.
These white fleshed Chinook are captured via seine nets at various locations throughout Howe Sound. The Chinook are then transferred from their salt water habitat to the hatchery groundwater ponds where they are held until maturity and then spawned.
In recent years 400,000 to 1,000,000 juvenile Chinook are reared in fresh water and released into sea pens located at Porteau Cove Park just off the Sea to Sky highway.
Before the sea pen rearing, the juvenile Chinook are raised to approximately 3 grams and are vaccinated against Vibrio. Once the fry reach an average of 7.5 grams in size they are transferred to sea pens and reared to 9-15 grams. The juveniles react well to the low salinity levels in Howe Sound and thrive with the plankton blooms in the marine environment. Once the juveniles are released they migrate to the north Pacific and when they return as adults to Howe Sound, they stage for a period of time before dispersing to the Squamish River system.