The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA), in collaboration with multiple organizations and agencies, have worked tirelessly to bring sockeye salmon back to the Okanagan region. This program has exceeded expectations, with in some years hundreds of thousands of fish entering the Columbia River system. Though previous years have seen plentiful returns, 2017 will be a below-average return of sockeye salmon to the Okanagan. For this reason only a small food fishery will be in place.
Questions & Answers
What are the current rates of return of Sockeye in the Okanagan?
As of July 24, 2017, at Wells Dam counts of returning sockeye of fish Passage in Washington were at 47,330. ONA are actively monitoring tags from US into Canada, and are revising estimates of available surplus for possible Harvest options. Interviews with fishers for on the ground information are also being conducted at this time.
Since June 20th, 24 PIT tags detected in the lower Okanagan from the 2014 and 2015 smolt program; of the 24 tagged, 1 Osoyoos Lake, + 23 Skaha Lake.
2.. How many fish are expected to be returning? How does this compare to what we had predicted?
Conservation is ONAs primary mandate. We would prefer to manage for 60,000 escapement to Osoyoos, and prefer to have 20-30k spawn in Skaha for our experimental population study. Based on spawner needs, and current abundance levels. (50k-55k at Wells, it is a food fishery only with No Demonstration Economic, Recreation fisheries).
3. What are the key determining factors of fish return once in the river. Do ONA have any predictions as to the future return of salmon over the year?
ONA forecasts the number of sockeye returning in a particular year using the relationship of historical estimates of the number of sockeye smolts that leave the Okanagan to the number of adults returning in the subsequent years. Once in the river, ONA will monitor flows and temperature, fish abundance (relative tags to dam counts/video counts), and acoustic surveys to estimate fish densities to inform predictions of abundance. Based on these studies we adjust for harvest, and average rates of harvest among years to predict removals, and possible natural mortality. Water temps are less than 21oC, which Okanagan salmon still migrate.
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