Town council informed upcoming salmon run into Osoyoos Lake could be best ever
The sockeye salmon run into Osoyoos Lake in the coming weeks is expected to be one of the largest in history, says a biologist with the Okanagan Nation Alliance.
Richard Bussanich, who is also a member of the Okanagan Salmon Community Initiative, made a presentation to members of Town of Osoyoos council on Monday detailing how the various partners involved in the community initiative are working together to revitalize and ensure the long-term stability of the Northern Sonora Desert Fishery in Penticton.
Experts are expecting between 300,000 and 400,000 sockeye salmon to make the long trek from the Columbia River system in the United States into Osoyoos Lake, making it one of the largest salmon runs in history, said Bussanich.
“This could be the biggest or second biggest run seen since 1938,” he said.
The Okanagan Salmon Community Initiative has a vision statement that includes “building a resilient, responsible and community fishery based on respect, relations and relevance, for generations,” he said.
The organization’s mission statement is to protect, conserve, enhance and restore Okanagan salmon stocks and salmon landscape and enhance salmon stewards to educate residents across the Okanagan Valley towards building a community supported fishery and meaningful relationships which demonstrate responsible, respectful and relevant fisheries practices, he said.
The program is unique in that individual anglers have an impact with partner groups and organizations that include commercial fishers, local fishing guides, B.C. sports fishing groups, Osoyoos Indian Band, Nk’ Mip RV campground, Nk’ Mip Desert Cultural Centre and the Town of Osoyoos, he said.
The sockeye salmon run that ends up in Osoyoos Lake and extends into Skaha Lake and Okanagan Lake in Penticton now accounts for 85 per cent of the six to 10 million produced by the Columbia River system since the 1990s, he said.
There will be significant economic benefits generated from the Osoyoos Lake salmon run in late July and August between the recreational and commercial fishery, he said.
“This fishery will generate about $1 million to the local economy in the month of August,” he said.
A total of 30,000 to 100,000 sockeye salmon will be harvested during the commercial and recreational fishery in late July and August, he said.
Testing by the University of British Columbia has revealed that sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River and Okanagan systems are genetically adapted to have a higher density of receptor cells that allows for adults to pass through higher than normal water temperatures and survive to spawn, he said.
The community initiative has set an objective to pilot a community supported fisheries model using local anglers to land troll-caught sockeye in Osoyoos Lake this August, he said.
There will also be a campaign launched to provide educational outreach materials to educate the general public and special interest groups about the Okanagan Salmon Community Initiative, he said.
“We want to build an equitable, viable business model,” he said.
A salmon market will once again be set up at Nk’ Mip Desert Cultural Centre in August and at Codfathers in Kelowna to allow commercial fishers to sell their catch, he said.
Mayor Stu Wells thanked Bussanich for his presentation and applauded the ONA for their good work in ensuring the salmon run into Osoyoos Lake remains strong and viable for years to come.
Leadership from the B.C. Wildlife Federation and Osoyoos Wildlife Federation also attended Monday’s meeting and their support is also much appreciated as it has taken many partners to ensure the successful return of the sockeye salmon run, said Wells.