The Okanagan Nation has been leading initiatives that will rebuild Okanagan salmon
populations and restore critical aquatic habitat.
Reintroduction of Sockeye Salmon into Skaha Lake
migration of indigenous sockeye salmon has been terminated by the operation of
McIntyre Dam, located on the Okanagan River between Osoyoos and Vaseux Lakes. Once
an important food fishery, this dam has moved the historic Okanagan Nation fishing
grounds at Okanagan Falls to a limited conservation fishery further downstream.
Other management actions have also contributed to the depletion of these stocks.
As an ONA priority to assist in maintaining and sustaining this struggling salmon
stock, the ONA hosted a multi-agency workshop in 1997 to explore the potential
to bring sockeye salmon into Okanagan Lake. Due to concerns of unknown interactions
with an already struggling kokanee population in Okanagan Lake, agency experts
agreed that the best course of action would be to proceed with a risk assessment
to evaluate the experimental placement of sockeye salmon into Skaha Lake. The ONA
and Colville Confederated Tribes, with project funding provided by the Bonneville
Power Administration, have completed a three-year risk assessment from 2000-2003.
During this time, members of the Canadian Okanagan Basin technical Working Group,
fisheries agency staff, and other independent experts have provided annual technical
review and assessment of project design, methodology, and results.
the end of the three-year risk assessment in the spring of 2003, it was determined
that with proper project design, reintroducing sockeye salmon into Skaha Lake posed
little threat to resident fish stocks, and the COBTWG supported the ONA’s
efforts to proceed with an experimental fry reintroduction program. With annual
project monitoring, this method will yield significant information on the survival
of kokanee and sockeye at various life history stages and on their interactions
within Skaha Lake. The COBTWG has worked together to develop a comprehensive project
Monitoring and Evaluation Plan that uses the best scientific procedures and protocols
available. With approvals provided by the Federal-Provincial Introductions and
Transfers Committee under the Federal Fisheries Act, the ONA is now moving forward
with implementation planning.
In October 2003, the Okanagan Nation Alliance proceeded with a small Okanagan
sockeye broodstock collection and egg take, raised the eggs in a hatchery, and
released 352,500 sockeye fry into Skaha Lake. This marked a historic occasion,
where, for the first time in over 50 years, sockeye salmon were able to occupy
their historic habitat within Skaha Lake.
Okanagan Basin Fisheries
COBTWG and BC Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management are embarking on a new
long term fisheries planning process for the Okanagan and the Similkameen. 2003
and 2004 will be spent setting the stage for "Watershed-based Fish Sustainability
Planning" (WFSP). WFSP is a process developed by DFO and provincial agencies
to be fish focused and to identify and address watershed priorities by developing
comprehensive watershed plans. Although the focus is on fisheries, the process
does address the need to include water in planning and obtain support from non-fish
interests. This year will be spent: compiling relevant reports; assessing the state
of the basin for fisheries; developing an implementation plan for WFSP; and starting