Sockeye Salmon Return To Okanagan Lake

By Ben Hamill - July 03 2021

Sockeye Salmon Return To Okanagan Lake

It has been at least five decades since sockeye salmon have been spotted in Okanagan Lake, but thanks to conservation efforts, the body of water is now once again home to the long-lost species.

The fish is usually found in the North Pacific Ocean and the rivers that discharge into it. Thanks to the combined efforts of the local government along with community conservation groups, the fish seem to be making an astounding comeback.

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Rehabilitating The Ecosystem

Rehabilitating the ecosystem has been an important part of creating an environment in which sockeye salmon can thrive. In order for this to work, the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) teamed up with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to build a new fish ladder that enables species to swim through the dam.

Herb Alex, the hatchery equipment and facilities maintenance coordinator for the ONA, said that the fish have never before made it this far. They usually only make it to McIntyre Dam in Oliver. What the ladder now does is help the fish make their way up far enough to reach the Okanagan.

Efforts to restore the population of sockeye salmon in the lake have been in operation for over 12 years. Lee McFayden, a local conservationist, said that seeing all the measures put in place was quite a tearful moment following years of hard work.

Sockeye Salmon Population Is Thriving

It is estimated that approximately 30,000 spawning salmon have reached the Okanagan River basin as a result of the conservation efforts. According to Global News, the lake, as well as rivers near to it, had previously been parts of the fish species’ natural habitat. However, 50 years ago, the Penticton Dam blocked them from passing through as it left an existing fish ladder inoperable. Also known as a fishway, a fish ladder is created to provide a detour route for migrating fish to pass over any obstructions in a river. This enables fish to leap through rushing water, then rest in a pool as many times as necessary until they are able to leave the ladder.

According to experts, maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems directly benefits other animals in its surroundings. Newly hatched sockeye salmon migrate to the ocean via rivers in the region. They return to the lake as part of their journey of roughly 6,000 kilometres. Therefore, conserving them, as well as their environment and all that it contains, is key.

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