Introducing an ambitious project to protect salmon in Canada
Located 80 kilometres, or 50 air miles, north of Campbell River, British Columbia, is a wild and remote area of the Pacific Northwest known as Knight Inlet. As the longest fjord on the B.C. coast, Knight Inlet offers visitors spectacular scenery set against a backdrop of dramatic mountain peaks plunging into the Pacific Ocean.
One of our favourite resorts in BC is the Knight Inlet Lodge, tucked into Glendale Cove. Glendale Cove is home to one of the largest concentrations of grizzly (brown) bears in British Columbia. It is not uncommon for there to be up to 40 bears within 10 kilometres of the lodge in the peak fall season, when the salmon are returning to the river.
Unfortunately, the lodge has not been able to open during the summer due to Covid-19, but with the season being quieter this year, the people at Knight Inlet Lodge embarked on an ambitious project to ensure the conservation of salmon. Read on to find out about this new initiative aimed at ensuring long term viability of wild salmon in the local rivers.
Salmon enhancement project at Knight Inlet Lodge
The absence of guests during 2020 allowed the team at Knight Inlet Lodge to set up a major new conservation project. Working in conjunction with Da’naxda”xw / Awaetlala First Nation, whose traditional territory the lodge resides in, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, their first salmon enhancement programme was rolled out under the watchful eye of the neighbourhood bears.
The importance of salmon
Salmon form a fundamental part of the Pacific Coast’s ecosystem, not only nourishing the bears but also fertilising the coastal rainforest and increasing nutritional content in the waterways. In the wild, less than 10% of salmon eggs reach ‘fry’ or young fish stage. Knight Inlet’s new enhancement programme should result in a survival rate of over 80%, providing vital support to the area’s wildlife and natural habitats.
Harvesting wild salmon eggs
In mid-September, 170 pink salmon were seine fished (netted) from the Glendale River and transferred to large freshwater tanks in a specially built compound. During late September and early October their eggs were harvested and flown out to a hatchery facility at Campbell River for fertilisation and incubation. In December, the eggs will be returned to the spawning channel at Knight Inlet Lodge, ready for the final phase of hatching.
A few obstacles to overcome
Knight Inlet Lodge sits on an 80-mile fjord in the southern Great Bear Rainforest on BC’s mountainous Pacific Coast. This remote location is accessible only by boat or by floatplane, making it something of a logistical nightmare when it comes to shipping in equipment such as holding tanks, generators, pumps and pipelines. Interference from the resident grizzlies was another big challenge – minimising impact on the bears and keeping the humans safe was essential. Harvesting salmon in September coincides with prime feeding time for the grizzlies, so there was some stiff competition for the fish!
Sustainable tourism in action
This ambitious project to harvest wild salmon eggs would not have been possible without funding generated by the lodge’s visitors – every guest plays a part in the conservation of Knight Inlet by paying a small Environmental Levy, which is used to support conservation projects such as this.
In March 2021, around 40,000-50,000 salmon fry will be ready to depart Knight Inlet Lodge on their migration out to the Pacific Ocean. Those that survive the epic ocean adventure – less than 10% of the fry – will return to their place of birth in 2 years to spawn… So if you head to Knight Inlet Lodge in autumn 2022 you can witness the end of their incredible journey! A higher volume of salmon is likely to attract higher numbers of bears, creating an unforgettable wildlife spectacle.