Juvenile PIT tagging programs on the Cowichan, Englishman, and Quinsam Rivers will provide information on timing, abundance, and both freshwater and marine survival, while an experimental program at Robertson Creek Hatchery will evaluate how alternative juvenile release and/or rearing strategies may be used to increase overall survival and adult returns. We will also evaluate the effectiveness of reconditioning wild kelts as a tool to promote increased survival and repeat spawning, while satellite tags will be used to explore distribution and potential mortality mechanisms of reconditioned adult steelhead while at large in the Salish Sea and elsewhere. Data generated from this study will provide information on where survival bottlenecks could be occurring in freshwater and marine environments and evaluate strategies that may help facilitate population persistence and recovery for this species in the Province.
Steelhead are iteroparous, a natural life history strategy whereby some individuals (2-15% of a population typically) will return to the ocean after spawning – a process known as kelting – and return to freshwater again to spawn in future years. Reconditioning is the process of culturing post-spawned steelhead (kelts) in a captive environment where they are fed and grown to a suitable healthy size before being released to continue their seaward migration.