Okanagan salmon conservation initiatives applauded


Head of Pacific Salmon Foundation Cites Local Efforts


Vancouver - Local efforts to restore sockeye salmon runs in the Okanagan River system have garnered praise from the head of a B.C. foundation that focuses on Pacific salmon conservation and restoration.


Dr. Brian Riddell, president and CEO of the Vancouver-based Pacific Salmon Foundation, praised the Okanagan Nation Alliance for its work in recent years to restore sockeye abundance to numbers not seen since 1923.


Current estimates show that more than 500,000 sockeye salmon have migrated past the Bonneville Dam, the first dam in the Columbia River, and that upwards of 95 per cent are expected to return to the Okanagan River, said Riddell.  He cited statistics produced by the Fish Passage Centre, which monitors salmon returns along the dam system on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the State of Washington.


“What we are observing is one of the greatest Pacific salmon recoveries in British Columbia and people need to know this is happening because of the work of the Okanagan Nation Alliance and other volunteer streamkeeping organizations that are active in the Okanagan region,” said Riddell.


The Okanagan Nation Alliance has worked for several years to restore sockeye returns in the Okanagan River basin. The Pacific Salmon Foundation has provided the First Nations group with 15 small grants since 2003. The grants helped re-introduce sockeye salmon to the Skaha Lake and supported several education projects in conjunction with Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Salmonids in the Classroom program.


Since 1990, the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s flagship Community Salmon Program has made 57 grants in the Okanagan River Basin totaling more than $375,000.


“The best part of our involvement in the Okanagan is realizing how effectively our partners leverage our grants with local fundraising, volunteer labour and in-kind donations,” said Riddell. “For every dollar that we have invested in the Okanagan over the years, local organizations like the Okanagan Nation Alliance have gone out and generated another $7 for the good of salmon.”


Riddell will be on hand in Kelowna this Thursday evening, August 2, to celebrate the historic sockeye returns. The Pacific Salmon Foundation and Okanagan Nation Alliance are co-hosting a fundraising dinner at the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort, which will feature complimentary fine wine pairings with wild and locally-caught fresh sockeye salmon prepared by well-known celebrity chefs at outdoor cooking stations. Codfathers Seafood Market will be hosting an oyster bar and complimentary champagne on the terrace alongside the chefs. The reception will be followed by a gourmet dinner. The event is billed as “Many Happy Returns” and will include a live auction followed by entertainment. Tickets are $100.00 and may be purchased at Codfathers Seafood Market or by calling Tracey Bussanich at 250-707-0095.

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