Students look over a display about what the sockeye salmon mean to the Okanagan people at the Okanagan Nation Alliance annual fry release ceremony held on Wednesday in Penticton. Mark Brett/Penticton Western News

Sockeye run small this year

ONA is predicting just shy of 25,000 salmon will make it through to Osoyoos and Skaha this year

After a number of years of good returns, it is bad news for the Okanagan sockeye run this year.

“The run is almost done for sockeye coming in. At the last dam, Wells, where all the Okanagan fish go through and nothing else, we have about 38,000 fish,” said Richard Bussanich, a senior fisheries biologist with the Okanagan Nation Alliance fisheries department.

“It’s tracking about 30 per cent of the 10-year average right now. Typically, we would see about 150 to 250,000 fish at Wells. This year, we are seeking a fraction of that.”

Related: Sockeye numbers down

Bussanich said the same problem is occurring with runs all along the west coast.

“It’s not just Okanagan, it’s coast-wide, right from California to the Nass river,” he said. “Stocks through are a fraction of their historic strength.”

With the problem showing up universally, Bussanich said it indicates a problem in the marine portion of the salmon lifecycle.

“If it was a freshwater issue, you would see some stocks doing well and other stocks not doing so well,” said Bussanich. “This run, unfortunately, the small fish going out and the adults that made their way out to sea, ended up migrating though what we would call poor salmon conditions in the fresh water and marine. They’re getting a double whammy.

“The little guys probably got hit pretty good, and when they went out to sea, they got hit with what is now confirmed as an El Niño.”

Bussanich said there has been concern over the past few years, but ocean scientists are now coming to a consensus there has been a “regime change” in the marine environment.

“There is enough weight of evidence out there, from lack of catching juveniles to poor adults catches that something is going on in the marine environment,” he said.

The ONA is predicting just shy of 25,000 salmon will make it through to Osoyoos and Skaha this year.

“That will meet our minimum escapements,” said Bussanich. “It’s a weaker run and we are going to continue with our hatchery program. This is one of the reasons for the hatchery program to help mitigate in years like this.”

Related: Okanagan Nation sockeye salmon fry release

Low returns also mean recreational fisheries are unlikely this year. Bussanich said they haven’t been calling for any, and there is only minor food fishing going on by Okanagan Nation communities.

The question, Bussanich said, is whether the sockeye will rebound as they did in the late 90s, or is the salmon run on a new course? Being optimistic, he said if the sockeye are given a chance, the stock will rebound again.

“Because we have seen this stock come back so vigorously, there’s hope this stock will come back again,” said Bussanich.

In the meantime, the ONA Fisheries Department, one of the largest in B.C., will continue its restoration, conservation and protection mandate, noting that the ONA administers $3.5 million for a variety of environmental programs to enhance quality of life and well being in the valley.

“We are not lessening the effort. We continue to work with all the agencies, a variety of NGOs and good volunteers throughout the valley. There is a lot of grassroots stuff that is happening here,” said Bussanich. “We are not going anywhere. The Okanagan is rich in stewardship and we should be very proud of that.“

Just Posted

Okanagan Taste: Snacks and what to pair with them

Your guide to for the go-to snacks and beverage pairings for sports season

Dirty book sale

Penticton Public Library hosting its annual book sale

Search at Silver Creek property enters third day

A portion of the property has been cordoned off with black landscaping fabric

Regional district and city hoping to curb bad recycling behaviours

City of Penticton and the RDOS are teaming up to eliminate contaminates

October power disruptions planned

Summerland to upgrade switches at electrical substation

VIDEO: Sears liquidation sales continue across B.C.

Sales are expected to continue into the New Year

New B.C. acute care centre opens for young patients, expectant mothers

Facility aims to make B.C. Children’s Hospital visits more comfortable

Search ramps up for B.C. woman after dog, car found near Ashcroft

Jenny Lynn Larocque’s vehicle and dog were found in Venables Valley, but there is no sign of her

Police officer hit by car, stabbed in Edmonton attack back on job

Const. Mike Chernyk, 48, returned to work Thursday

UBC medical students learn to care for Indigenous people

Students in health-related studies to take course, workshop to help better serve Aboriginal people

Dorsett has 2 goals, assist in Canucks’ 4-2 win over Sabres

‘It was a real good hockey game by our group,’ Canucks coach Travis Green said.

Berry disappointed: Bear tries to eat fake fruit on woman’s door wreath

A Winnipeg woman has taken her berry-embellished wreath down, after a hungry bear visited her porch

B.C. search groups mobilize for missing mushroom picker

Searchers from across the province look for Frances Brown who has been missing since Oct. 14.

Have you heard about Black Press scholarships?

Up to 37 scholarships are awarded each year to students throughout British Columbia

Most Read