Local leaders met at the base of the Coquitlam Dam for a historic release of sockeye smolts. Data collected from their returns in 2019 will be part of a larger program aimed at creating fish passage through the Coquitlam Dam.
The Kwikwetlem First Nation joined other local leaders at the base of the Coquitlam Dam for a historic release of sockeye salmon smolts in April 2017. With a name that celebrates salmon —Kwikwetlem means “Red Fish Up The River” — the First Nation brings important context to a project focused on restoring sockeye salmon runs above the Coquitlam Dam.
The two-year old fish are descendants of sockeye salmon that became landlocked behind the Coquitlam Dam in 1919. Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart explained as part of this program, “…five thousand smolts are ready to be released and are being released into the Coquitlam River at the base of the dam.”
Eggs were taken from above the dam and reared in offsite facilities, then brought to a large oxygenated holding tank at the dam’s base. Volunteers carefully scooped several smolts into zip closure plastic bags which were distributed to individuals at the event.
Wearing a traditional woven cedar hat and blanket, Kwikwetlem Councillor Fred Hulbert said, “It brings great pride and honour for this to be acknowledged, to be practiced, and to bring back the species as one of our great spirits that has provided for us for all generations.”
Participants released bagged fish into an accessible trough. Fresh water being pumped through transported the smolts down a short tube to the nearby river. They will head directly downstream to the ocean. “This is an effort by many groups,” said Mayor Stewart. “City of Coquitlam, City of Port Coquitlam, Kwikwetlam First Nation, stewardship groups, BC Hydro, Fisheries and Oceans, all coming together with Metro Vancouver in partnership.”
Norman Fletcher, Hatchery Coordinator for the Grist Goeson Memorial Hatchery shared his group’s hope, “…that the stock can be built to grow in the reservoir where there can’t ever be any development and get a clear track for restoring all the salmon runs and passage in due course.”
This release is part of a larger project to collect data that may lead to completion of two-way fish passage on Coquitlam Dam. Visit the Watershed Watch Salmon Society for more information about the Kwikwetlem Salmon Restoration Program.
See our video gallery to see more stories showcasing how Metro Vancouver is advancing sustainability and regional goals.