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Salmon smolt’s invisible migration ceremony

Kiosk.

Kiosk.

Yesterday, the Lake Babine Nation held a celebration releasing salmon smolt into the Babine River.

The mass movement of hundreds of millions salmon smolt from rivers and tributaries to the Skeena estuary is called the invisible migration because the finger sized smolts are hidden by the muddy waters.

Donna MacIntyre is the Fisheries Director with the Lake Babine Nation, she says because it’s a hidden migration, they want to bring awareness of to the event.

This is the first time there’s been a formal celebration of releasing the smolts, in the past there were private ceremonies.

Drumming prior to the releasing ceremony.

Drumming prior to the releasing ceremony.

Drumming while releasing the smolts.

Drumming while releasing the smolts.

Releasing ceremony.

Releasing ceremony.

Releasing ceremony.

Releasing ceremony.

Releasing ceremony.

Releasing ceremony.

Executive Director of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, Shannon McPhail, says Lake Babine is vitally important to the Skeena River salmon because of the number of salmon it supports.

Kirby Muldoe is from Kispiox of the Gitxsan Nation, he says the event is a great sharing and learning opportunity.

He adds that the salmon is important culturally and economically for people in the region.

The event also brought in a diverse group of people from the community, with guides and outfitters taking people on their boats and helicopter.

Helicopter rides.

Helicopter rides.

Shannon McPhail says they hope the ceremony can become an annual occurrence given how many people have shown up and how many activities are taking place.

The importance of salmon to the region and the people isn’t lost on the younger generation, who led the smolt releases.

Winnie Smith is the lead teacher at Fort Babine Elementary school, and she says not only do the children learn in school about salmon, but they also work hands on with the fish.

Babine River Counting Fence.

Babine River Counting Fence.

The salmon smolt were released at the Babine River Counting Fence, about 360km from the mouth of the Skeena River.

Salmon smolts.

Salmon smolts.

Cassie Seibert is a smolt tagger at the fence, where smolts are tagged so they can estimate the population size before they head towards the ocean.

She says so far the most smolts they’ve caught in their pens in one day is 200,000, adding that’s not a record breaking number, and the season is still young.

Cassie Seibert explaining the capture pens.

Cassie Seibert explaining smolt tagging.

Monique Williams is a Hereditary Chief of the Bear Clan with the Lake Babine Nation.

She says that location is a very important site for salmon harvesting, bringing many people together.

The event was well attended despite having to travel on forestry roads for approximately an hour and a half from Smithers.

Salmon BBQ and bannock.

Salmon BBQ and bannock.

Ramona Williams brought her young children to the event and sums up the days events.

The Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition produced a video describing the invisible migration and it can be found here.

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