Only two populations of Sockeye remain in the Columbia River, and Okanagan Sockeye is one of them. Bringing our salmon back from the brink of extinction required six complementary initiatives:
Partnerships have been key – in both Canada and the USA . The work was too big to do alone.
2. Keep the water flowing
If a stream dries up because the water has gone to irrigate fields, then salmon can’t spawn. So one of the first things the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) did was to participate in water management decisions to improve water flows along the Okanagan River system, helping to keep water levels as fish friendly as possible.
3. Add another lake
Young salmon hang out in lakes while they grow up enough to migrate. After their return from the ocean and epic journey up the Columbia, mature salmon wait out the summer heat in lakes before spawning. In 2003, with much excitement, the ONA introduced Sockeye fry back into Skaha Lake.
4. Add more river
For more than 60 years, McIntyre Dam stopped salmon in their upstream swim. By facilitating fish passage over McIntyre, salmon gained another 8 kilometers of river and access to tiny Vaseux Lake.
5. Restore what we have
Fish like rivers that meander. Trees create cool shady pools where leaves fall, adding bugs and nutrients. When rivers are channelized, fish suffer, therefore another project has been restoration of a section of the Okanagan River.
6. Our prayers brought the salmon back
Year after year, while our salmon struggled, the Annual Salmon Feast was held at our traditional fishing grounds of Okanagan Falls – giving thanks for the salmon and praying for its return. Today, the ceremony continues with the Nation offering prayers of thanks for the abundant fish.