Tagging Puntledge Summer Chinook

Project Year: 2016-2017

View Provincial Database Record

Chinook Salmon: James Baxter

Project Lead

K’omoks First Nation


Coastal Region


Project Type

Species-Based Actions

FWCP Contribution


Action Plan Alignment

Puntledge Salmonid Action Plan

Project ID


Puntledge Summer Chinook Parentage-Based Tagging Study: Year 3

This project will use genetic methods, known as parentage-based tagging, to identify individual summer-run Chinook Salmon back to parental crosses (both in the hatchery and in the wild) to study the effects of parental Chinook return migration time and bacterial kidney disease (BKD) status on their progeny. The identification of individual fish to parents will allow an examination of the influences of both parental characteristics (migration timing, BKD infection-load) and release group/strategy on survival in those programs, as well as provide DFO guidance for the development of appropriate management actions, focused on improving wild and hatchery summer Chinook productivity and preserving the genetic integrity of the stock. The development of appropriate hatchery protocols will maintain the genetic distinction of the summer and fall Chinook populations, and manage BKD in summer Chinook. A thorough understanding of these two factors (migration time and BKD status) will be critical to the rebuilding efforts of the Puntledge River summer Chinook population.

The Project will benefit DFO as it contributes to salmon DNA databases used comprehensively in the identification and assessment of salmonid resources, fisheries management and enforcement in British Columbia. It also provides opportunity for research and development of new management and assessment tools for Chinook Salmon. The implementation of parent-based tagging for genetic management of Chinook Salmon in the Pacific region will improve DFO’s management of both large production populations enhanced for fishery harvest and small, threatened populations of conservation concern, such as Puntledge summer Chinook Salmon. The project will enable DFO to implement enhancement guidelines/practices that will facilitate the re-introduction and restoration of the Puntledge Summer run Chinook Salmon population in the wild.

The project will provide information to guide the efforts of the K’omoks First Nation in restoring the salmon populations in Puntledge River impacted by hydro development. The enhancement of this population in Puntledge hatchery has stabilized its abundance (from a declining trend) and the current research will provide information on the best methods to be employed in re-establishing successful reproduction in the wild. The project reflects strong cooperation between DFO, the K’ómoks First Nation and BC Hydro. Sustainable summer Chinook Salmon populations will revitalize the once-famous recreational fishing industry in the Comox Valley, with spin-off economic development opportunities, and support harvest by local First Nations for food and ceremonial purposes. Increased knowledge and level of engagement of KFN within the Puntledge Watershed will promote cultural awareness between First Nations and non-natives in the region.

Final Report: Executive Summary

Genetic analysis methods will be used in this multi-year study to identify individual Puntledge River summer-run Chinook salmon back to parental crosses (both those that were performed in the hatchery and those that occurred in the wild) to study the effects of parental Chinook return migration time and BKD status on their progeny. The genetic analysis is known as ‘parentage-based tagging’ and it allows identification of an individual offspring (at any age, including adults) to its parental pair, as long as both parents have been sampled and genotyped. The genotyping of parents and offspring will be conducted with a set of fifteen microsatellite loci (genetic markers) that are analyzed in the Molecular Genetics lab (MGL) at the Pacific Biological Station. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) considers the Puntledge River summer-run Chinook salmon a population of high conservation concern. This research will provide information on the most effective strategies to implement in re-establishing successful reproduction both in the hatchery and in the wild. This project is identified under the Species Based Actions in Table 2 of the Salmonid Action Plan – Support hatchery activities focused on enhancing the earliest returning adults of the summer Chinook run – which is ranked as a Level 1 priority.

Click the provincial database link below to read the full final report for this project.

View more about this project on the provincial database