WEST KELOWNA – The introduction of millions of sockeye salmon fry into Skaha lake over the past 12 years is being called a success by the Okanagan Nation Alliance which wants to expand its stocking program to Okanagan lake.
But those plans are facing some opposition from the provincial government which says more scientific analysis is needed to ensure the sockeye won’t hurt resident kokanee populations.
An ONA fisheries biologist downplays those concerns.
“We haven’t detected any negative impacts of sockeye on Skaha kokanee,” says Howie Wright. “We don’t foresee that would happen in Okanagan lake.”
And a federal fisheries scientist says the sockeye may have had a positive impact on their smaller cousins..
“The kokanee population on Skaha lake, which was depressed when sockeye out-plants first started, has actually recovered to historic abundance levels,” says Kim Hyatt.
However, Hyatt advises caution before any large scale introduction of sockeye into Okanagan lake.
“The same standard of care should be applied to Okanagan lake as was applied to Skaha lake and that is we should have a formal risk assessment done.”
The grand chief of the ONA believes the province’s opposition stems from concerns other than possible negative impacts on other fish species.
“It’s more an issue of the impact it might have on the real estate industry or agriculture or municipal water supply,” says Stewart Phillip. “It has nothing to do with kokanee, they’ve co-existed for a very, very long time.”
Phillip says the ONA will proceed with sockeye introduction into Okanagan lake with or without the province’s blessing.