Salmon hatchery fire destroys thousands of fry in Whitehorse

A massive fire in Whitehorse gutted a test salmon hatchery over Easter weekend, destroying thousands of fry and upsetting the Yukon’s efforts to restore salmon stocks.

Yukon College, in partnership with First Nations salmon enhancement programs, was working to spawn chum and Chinook salmon in an incubation facility in McIntyre Creek. The fry would have been released later this spring into the Yukon River tributaries.

But now, a charred out frame is all that’s left.

Michael Vernon, spokesperson for Yukon College, says all 16,000 chum salmon fry were lost in the fire, plus about 25,000 to 30,000 Chinook salmon fry.

Every year Chinook salmon will swim 3,000 kilometers from the Bering Sea to the mouth of the river to spawn.

But the Yukon River has seen a steady decrease in salmon over the last decade.

The damage from the fire is a huge setback for First Nations wanting to restore salmon spawning creeks.

The Ta’an Kwäch’än council still has access to 1,200 salmon fry being reared in local Whitehorse schools – but it’s only a fraction of the amount.

The Whitehorse fire department says the fire is not suspicious and most likely caused by the thawing of pipes with heat tape.

Yukon College will continue to assess the damage.

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