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Dylan Burbank, a fish technician for the non-profit Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association, Inc. (NSRAA), gently pours the fertilized eggs onto a bed of loosely ground chunks of plastic in the incubation boxes. The boxes are located on the man-made spawning channel of Herman Creek near Haines, Alaska.
The incubation boxes have a steady flow of fresh water from Herman Creek flowing through them. Over the winter the fertilized eggs will develop into fry. The incubation process is 100% natural. Fry are not fed. Once they are big enough, the fish leave the incubation boxes on their own.
In 2014, 2.4 million eggs were seeded into these incubation boxes. The 2013 incubation box survival rate was 90%. Without the artificial spawning, natural survival is said to be only 10%.
Based in Sitka, Alaska, NSRAA conducts salmon enhancement projects in northern southeast Alaska. It is funded through a salmon enhancement tax (of three percent) and cost-recovery income. NSRAA also produces sockeye, chinook, and coho salmon.
Male chum salmon return to Herman Creek to spawn with female chum salmon during the fall chum salmon run. The chum salmon return to freshwater Herman Creek, tributary of the Klehini River after living three to five years in the saltwater ocean. Spawning only once, chum salmon die approximately two weeks after they spawn.
Chilkat River and Klehini River chum salmon are the primary food source for one of the largest gatherings of bald eagles in the world. Each fall, bald eagles congregate in the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.
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