Chum Egg Photo

Gwa’ni Hatchery – Eyed Chum Egg Transfer

2018 Eyed Chum Eggs Transfer #1- to the Gwa’ni Hatchery


Twenty-two years ago, in 1996, marked the first Chum Salmon crash in the Nimpkish River. Since that time another crash occurred in 1999, and thereafter the stocks continued to decline despite enhancement efforts of the Namgis First Nation’s Gwa’ni Hatchery. Every year, Henry Nelson would report to the Namgis Band Council and the Fisheries and Oceans the plight of the Nimpkish chum.

Finally, three years ago, Stacey Larsen, an energetic community advisor set up a meeting with a former DFO employee, Jack Minard, who was on a board that played an advisory role to the Federal Salmon Enhancement Program. He took the Chum hatchery data on the Nimpkish Chum to the advisory board. After he retired, Lorraine Landry, Quatse Hatchery Manager took it up with the Advisory Board.

Throughout the last two years the chum was always a key discussion point in the Technical Working Group meetings. Many hours of meetings and work was done by the Pieter Van Will, Stacey Larsen, Dale Derouche, Nick Leone, Nic Dedeluk and Henry Nelson on planning what could be done. One of the key things Henry Nelson did was, he brought the message of a respected council member the late Greg Wadhams, to the table. That message was to get some chum eggs transplanted from several major rivers/hatcheries to assist in the rebuilding of a chum run back into the Nimpkish River.

I’m sure all of the above, and many others in the Namgis Band fighting for wild salmon, had an impact on making the Eyed Egg Transplant of Chum to the Nimpkish River happen.

Following is a description of the Historic Chum Eyed Egg Transplant.


Trip 1

On Tuesday morning, December 11, 2018, Gwa’ni Hatchery staff members Hank Nelson, Phil Alfred, Ken Robertson and Thane Alfred went to the Puntledge River Hatchery to get one million eyed eggs to transfer to the Gwa’ni Hatchery.

Jack Gillen and his friend Bob were bringing the boxes they made to help us transfer the eggs. While we waited, Dave, who appeared to be in charge of the Incubation of eggs, set up an electronic weighing scale to weigh the eggs to put in to each transport box.

After Jack and Bob arrived introductions were made with all involved. Dave, Jack, and Hank discussed Hank’s question “Would it be safe to load 100,000 into a box. Dave suggested we try it to see how it looked. He had already worked out that 100 eggs weighed 25.82 grams, therefore, 25.82 kilograms would yield 100,000 eggs. He weighed out 26 kilos each into 2 boxes which appeared to be about four inches deep each time. After that we used the 4 inch depth of eggs as our guage to approximate 100,000 eggs.  Two or three of us used 8 inch deep dip nets to fill the boxes.

Each time a box was filled with chum eggs, wet J cloths were laid on the eggs. It was then put on a stretcher that Jack had made and carried out by Hank and Kenneth, handed off to Thane and Phil to be placed in the back of a pickup truck.

Six boxes were placed under the tonneau cover on Phil’s truck. Four boxes were put into the canopy on Hank’s truck.  Water was put into two 2.5 gallon buckets and into a 2.5 gallon garden sprinkler in each truck to sprinkle water every hour onto the eggs to ensure they were kept moist. A moist felt blanket was placed over the boxes in Hank’s truck to keep the eggs in darkness. Jacob, one of the hatchery techs handed a sheet to Hank that showed the eggs to be at 330 ATUs.

After the boxes were secured and the congratulatory handshakes were done Stacey Larsen took a picture of the Gwa’ni Hatchery staff and the Nile Creek Hatchery staff Jack Gillen and Bob.

The trucks driven by Phil and Hank pulled out of the Puntledge Hatchery parking lot at 10 am. With some time consuming confusion both trucks were on the highway heading north to the Gwa’ni Hatchery. At least two stops were made to pour water over the eggs.

Both trucks were in the hatchery by 3 pm. Eggs temperature was at 8 degrees.  The river temperature was at 8.3 degrees. Air temperature was 6 degrees.

Phil and Hank located the four foot by five foot aluminum tub and got Ken and Thane to scrub it out with Ovadine.  Hank calculated its dimensions and put 10 mls of Ovadine to every liter of water. Three boxes were set inside the tub at a time to soak for ten minutes. After ten minutes the eggs were carried on the stretcher to the Aluminum Incubators and the eggs poured into it from the boxes. Another three boxes were set inside the Ovadine solution. This process continued until all 10 boxes of eggs were disinfected and poured into the Incubators. Water flow in each incubator is set at 100 liters per minute.

It is a historic day! Approximately one million eggs was transferred and planted into the Gwa’ni hatchery today from the Puntledge Hatchery. It is sad that this has to be done but it’s a joy to know that something is being done. There is hope that this, along with the new rearing strategy, the chum numbers will rebuild in the once bountiful Gwa’ni River.


Trip 2

On Thursday, December 13, 2018, Hank Nelson, Phil Alfred and Kenneth Robertson went back to the Puntledge Hatchery to transfer another million eggs. With Dave’s guidance and assistance eggs were loaded into the egg transport boxes. By 9:15, eight boxes were loaded into two trucks along with a box with approximately 4000 eggs in it. Two buckets of water and a 2.5 gallon filled garden sprinkler was loaded into the truck and the egg boxes were secured.

We didn’t get another million but Dave estimated 1,877,000 eggs were loaded in the two days.

Apparently when the request went in for two million eggs it wasn’t clear that the request was for 2 million eyed eggs after all dead eggs were removed and not 2 million fertilized eggs. So next year Puntledge staff and Gwa’ni staff will have to collect 2.2 million eggs to account for potential mortalities.

Happy to get eggs the Gwa’ni Hatchery staff, in the two trucks headed north at 9:35 am to the Gwa’ni. Two stops were made on the way home to sprinkle 2.5 gallons of water through the eggs to keep them cool and wet. Arrival time to the Gwa’ni was 12:40 pm.

Once at the hatchery, three boxes of chum eggs were put in the 5ft. x 4ft. x 1 ft. aluminum tub.  The eggs in the tub were soaked in the solution of Ovadine for 10 minutes to disinfect the eggs for bacteria on the eggs. The eggs were at 8 degrees, and the Ovadine solution was at 5.8 degrees, and the incubation water at 8.3oC.

Six boxes of eggs were loaded into six bulk incubators. The two remaining boxes and the box with four thousand eggs in it were combined. They were weighed to get 50,000 eggs per box, however, four boxes had 50,000 eggs and the last had 34,700 eggs. These five boxes were loaded into another 5 bulk incubators. When they emerge as fry these will be reared in 5 Capilano Troughs.

*Note: The eggs were counted by weight using the same measurements done by the Puntledge Hatchery staff of 100 eggs = 25.82 grams or 100,000 eggs = 25.82 kgs.

Special Thanks to Laurent Frisson, Puntledge Hatchery and his assistant Dave. As well as Jack Gillen and Bob who loaned the transport boxes.

If you have any questions contact Nic Dedeluk or Hank Nelson