The Thornton Creek project is located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, on the North side of Ucluelet Harbour - 1Okm from the town of Ucluelet.
The Thornton Creek Hatchery was initially started in 1976 to test the Japanese method of rearing chum salmon in concrete keeper channels. The capacity was to raise 1. 1 million eggs, producing 33,000 adult fish with first returns by 1979.
The Hatchery was to be expanded to raise 6 million chum eggs in 1984 with adult returns of up to 180,000. Chum Salmon were successfully raised at the Hatchery for a few years, however, the returning chum created management problems with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), and raising of chum was temporarily discontinued.
In 1981 a Society was formed by local people to manage the Hatchery in an attempt to enhance local rivers and streams, and restock the deteriorating salmon returns and to raise endangered chinook and coho in the Tofino - Ucluelet area. We currently enhance chinook from two different systems in Barkley Sound also a few coho and chum creeks in this area.
The Thornton Creek Hatchery started by raising 516,000 Coho and 300,000 Chinook, for release into the Ucluelet Harbour. The Hatchery now raises 600,000 Chinook, 600.000 Chum, and 100,000 Coho.
We also work with a PIP project in Tofino and capture broodstock from Clayoquot Sound Rivers to help bring back chinook and coho runs in this area. We have a separate Hatchery site in Barkley Sound, on Toquart Lake where we raise Toquart River chinook.
Currently, the Thornton Creek Enhancement Society consists of a Board of Directors who represent the Sport and Commercial Fisheries, local First Nations Bands, Marina Operators, Forestry Workers and local Business Peoples. The Hatchery employs two year-round full-time workers, and up to six part-time workers for Fall brood stock and adult salmon enumeration, and so is involved with the Tofino Salmon Enhancement Society.
The Hatchery is busy from end of September to end of May. We have tours for visitors and schools, there are a lot of tourists around in the fall to visit, mostly to see the bears eating fish but we do not promote bear watching due to liability concerns.
Most years the Thornton Creek Hatchery has done up to 300,000 Chinook from Toquart River. These fry are then raised in net pens on Toquart Lake, where they are fed daily for 90 days in the Spring. They are usually raised to 5- 7grams and released in late June. The Hatchery Chinook stocks are now starting to re-build themselves, and successfully returning in larger numbers.
Coho are raised for approximately 14 months, and released at 12-14 grams. The Thornton Creek Hatchery has raised and released Upper Kennedy Lake Coho and Maggie Lake Coho, usually consisting of 50,000 - 1 00,000 fry raised to 1 gram, and released as fed fry back into these systems. There is a Volunteer Project on site that raises Coho from Lost Shoe Creek, where stream gravel placement is done.
Coho Fascinating Facts
Class: Osteichthyes "Bony Fish"
Average size: 1.3 kg - 14 kg.
Life cycle: 3 years.
Coho generally spawn in streams.
The Thornton Creek Hatchery also still raises some Chum from Salmon, Mercer and Mercantile Creek in the Ucluelet Harbour. However, for any number of reasons the Churn numbers have been slowly declining in the last 10 years or so.
When to See Salmon
The best times to see the Salmon at the Thornton Creek Hatchery is mid-October to November for Adult salmon, and juveniles can be viewed in March-June. July and August, limited staff and no fish are on site. If you would like to book a tour, please call in advance to ensure staff is on-site and available.
Project Name: Thornton Creek Project
Partner Group: Thornton Creek Enhancement Society
Contact Info: Richard Smith