MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS
Kwikwetlem First Nation elder Bev Morzoczkowski, centre, offers a traditional blessing with councillors Fred Hulbert Sr. and John Peters prior to the release of 5,000 sockeye smolts into the Coquitlam River on Thursday. The release was the culmination of a two-year program by the Kwikwetlem Sockeye Restoration Program to rebuild the stock of Coquitlam kokanee after small numbers of returning adult fish were discovered annually in Department of Fisheries and Oceans' trap at the base of the Coquitlam Dam. The program was initiated when DNA testing confirmed the majority of the fish were survivors of the stock that had long been thought eliminated when the damn was reconstructed and enlarged in 1913. The smolts were raised at the Rosewell Hatchery on Vancouver Island and it's hoped they'll return as adults in 2019. Thursday's release was the largest of Coquitlam sockeye in more than 100 years.