38 Upper Fraser Spring Chinook Salmon alevins are exploring their tank in the Valemount Visitor Centre. Although they are hard to catch a glimpse of at this stage, (and even harder to photograph) they are available for viewing during regular business hours. /COURTESY VILLAGE OF VALEMOUNT

By Andrea Arnold

The 38 Upper Fraser Spring Chinook Salmon that the Valemount Visitor Centre received as eggs are now swimming about in their tank. They hatched on November 18 and are now at the alevin stage of their life cycle, living off their attached egg sack. They will do this for 50-90 days after hatching. Visitor Centre Councillor Cassandra Knelsen figures it will be early spring before they are classified as frys and are able to digest fish food. Until then, they are mobile but are still very sensitive to light.

“People are welcome to come see them,” said centre employee Ernie Romanow. “There is a small viewing hole, but the covering needs to stay on the tank for a while yet.”

The conditions of the water need to be kept consistent. Oxygen levels and temperature are vital to the survival of the fish. The Visitor Centre is prepared for power outages with two battery operated air bubble machines, each with a lifespan of 48 hours—or longer with a good supply of batteries.

“The temperature of the water is 4 degrees,” said Knelsen. “It needs to stay between 3-5 degrees. 4 is ideal. If we need to, we can add frozen creek water to help keep it cool.”

The tank is available for viewing during regular business hours, but the staff would like to remind people that they will be closed from noon on Dec. 23 until Jan. 4.

“Of course, we will still be checking on the fish,” said Knelsen.

All 38 of the eggs they received from the Spruce City Wildlife Association out of Prince George following their successful harvest from Swift Creek in mid-August are thriving. This is the first time Chinook Salmon have been raised in a stewardship program outside of the controlled hatchery setting.

An event showcasing their return to Swift Creek is being planned for the spring of 2022.