Bedwell River Smolt Outmigration Assessment

Current efforts in assessing the health and recovery of Chinook salmon have been primarily focused on adult escapement to their natal spawning grounds while data and information around the health and available resources at other life-stages is lacking. Cohort survival is generally determined in the early life phases. Identification of limiting factors is important for improving production and recovery. This project is unique along the WCVI in assessing the health, distribution, and out-migration timing of wild Chinook smolts. Results from the project will contribute to a multi-year comprehensive assessment of the limiting factors for southern west coast Vancouver Island (WCVI) Chinook recovery. Preliminary work suggests these chinook smolts are migrating to sea at very small sizes of 0.5 grams, making them susceptible to disease and other factors.

We propose installing a Rotary Screw Trap (RST) in the lower reaches of the Bedwell River which will capture and allow for sampling of the juvenile salmon out-migration in the Spring. This will include conducting a mark-recapture study using Visible Implant Elastomer (VIE) tags on captured juvenile Coho and Chinook. We will follow in-river sampling with estuary beach seines and beach seines along Bedwell Sound. Whole samples will also be sent to the DFO Molecular Genetics Lab to test for pathogens.