During 2019, the Vuntut Gwitch’in Government (VGG) is proposing to build upon the results of a four year project which aims to better understand chum salmon spawning habitat in the Fishing Branch River and identify potential restoration projects for the watershed. A key finding of this habitat assessment work is that a portion of the Fishing Branch River becomes dewatered during the winter months resulting in complete egg mortality for chum which spawn in this area. The extent of this seasonally dewatered area varies from year to year and increases in length over the course of the winter and early spring. In some years, as many as 20% of the total number of redds upstream of the enumeration weir become dewatered. With this information in mind, the primary objective of the 2019 project is to remove spawning female chum salmon from the seasonally dewatered area, conduct an onsite egg take/fertilization and plant the fertilized eggs elsewhere in the river in spawning areas which do not become dewatered. The results of the 2019 work work will provide information on the feasibility of employing instream egg incubation as a method of helping to restore the chum spawning stock in the Fishing Branch River.
The proposed 2020 instream egg incubation project would be a continuation of the first year of the project (2019) and would also collect additional information to inform the restoration of chum stocks in the Fishing Branch River. Also included in the 2020 project is an assessment into the feasibility of constructing and operation of an exclusion fence to exclude spawning chum from entering a portion of the river which becomes temporarily dewatered during the late winter.