Sockeye Return to Alouette Watershed 2007

Group watching sockeye being tagged

Group watching sockeye being tagged
Photo by LGL Limited

The Alouette River Management Society and its partners are excited to announce that sockeye have returned to Alouette River after an absence of over 80 years. DNA on these sockeye has confirmed that the returning sockeye are of Alouette origin – direct descendents of those sockeye that were landlocked when the dam was constructed in the late 1920’s.  All indications are leading to the sockeye present in the river now are returning from the 2005 release kokanee from the Alouette Dam – our local term “sockanee”  – that escaped in 2005 when the spillway of the dam was opened for a surface release.

Matt Foy (DFO) and Mike Ilaender (BC Corrections) Get soaked by a Sockeye

Matt Foy (DFO) and Mike Ilaender (BC Corrections) Get soaked by a Sockeye

During the week of August 13, 2007, sockeye were found in the holding pens at the Allco Fish Hatchery.  Approximately 18 mortalities of sockeye were found later that day by BC Hydro employees at the base of the dam, the sockeye having tried unsuccessfully to reach the reservoir through the low level outlet flow.  It is thought that the sockeye were simply jumping over the Allco Fish fence, intent on making their way home.  BC Hydro has made a temporary shield over the low level outlet pipe in order to avoid any further mortalities and the fish fence has been modified at Allco to deter any sockeye from jumping over the fence.

This is a monumental,  historic, event for the Alouette Watershed as there has not been sockeye in this watershed for over 80 years when the Alouette Dam was constructed blocking their passage to the lake and upper watershed to spawn.

This is a monumental, historic, event for the Alouette Watershed as there has not been sockeye in this watershed for over 80 years when the Alouette Dam was constructed blocking their passage to the lake and upper watershed to spawn.

On Saturday August 18, 2007, DNA samples from 22 fish were collected by employees of the Pacific Salmon Commission, Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Pacific Salmon Foundation.  These results of tests confirm that the sockeye were from the 2005 “sockanee” smolts (juveniles) that escaped in 2005 during the ARMS, Katzie First Nation and LGL Limited project involving the tracking of coho that had been marked colour dye tags and released into Alouette Reservoir.

Similar tests were conducted with Steelhead in 2006 which resulted in lower number of kokanee smolts escaping due low reservoir water levels which resulted in a late date opening of the spillway.  In 2007 there is estimated to be between 70,000 to 90,000 sockanee that traveled over the spillway on their way to the Pacific Ocean.  These projects have been funded by BC Hydro’s Bridge Coastal Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program.  The spillway will continue to be opened each year until 2014 through a monitoring program included in the Alouette Water Use Plan Review, once approved by the Water Comptroller in Victoria.

Debbie Miller, Katzie First Nation, speaks to partners on success of coordinated effort in returning sockeye to Alouette Watershed.

Debbie Miller, Katzie First Nation, speaks to partners on success of coordinated effort in returning sockeye to Alouette Watershed.

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