The Okanagan Nation Alliance hatchery. - Contributed

Okanagan Nation sockeye stocking program continues

The ONA has planned releases of more sockeye fry into Okanagan Lake over the next week

The Okanagan Nation Alliance’s sockeye salmon stocking program on Okanagan Lake will continue for the second year beginning this week.

Starting Sunday, the Okanagan Nation Alliance’s (ONA) kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ Hatchery will be providing sockeye salmon fry for releases taking place at Mission Creek as well as 6 Mile Creek and Trout Creek. The ONA plans to release 230,000 fry as part of its continued efforts to bring sockeye salmon back to the Okanagan.

“The return of our sc ‘win (sockeye salmon) to Okanagan Lake is our fundamental and inherent right and responsibility as Syilx people,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.

Howie Wright, ONA’s Fisheries Manager points out that Okanagan Lake is a key addition to the group’s stocking program.

“We now have another cold water lake [after Osoyoos and Skaha Lake] to help us build resilience in sockeye salmon stocks,” said Wright. “Based on its size and depth we could see Okanagan Lake with a minimum of 30,000 to 100,000 adult spawners per year.

“On top of that optimistically anywhere from 300,000 to 500,000 for fisheries harvest would be coming to the Okanagan Basin to support the historical fishery at Okanagan Falls. It has the significant potential to meet food, social, and ceremonial needs, providing food security for communities, while seeing a surplus extend to a broad range of biological and economic benefits”.

The ONA will hold traditional ceremonies that they say are critical given that sockeye salmon were nearly extinct in the Okanagan Basin. In the 1960’s the Columbia River Treaty and habitat impacts in the Okanagan basin led to the creation of industrial reservoirs, and the building hydro-electric developments on the Columbia River, making it impossible for fish passage, while deeply impacting Syilx cultural and food systems, said the ONA.

Years of hard work and political advocacy, particularly in the last decade, have seen the ONA working with provincial, federal and US Tribes and agencies to rebuild this sockeye run from 3,000 up to 500,000 salmon returning annually.

Fry Release Schedule:

June 3 to 4, 2017 – 6 Mile Creek on Okanagan Indian Band

June 7, 2017 – Trout Creek on Penticton Indian Band

June 9, 2017 (to be confirmed) – Mission Creek on Westbank First Nation

The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) was formed in 1981 as the inaugural First Nations government in the Okanagan, which represents the eight member communities of the Okanagan Nation. The ONA’s kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓ Hatchery is central to its conservation efforts. The 25,000 square foot hatchery has the capacity to rear eight million eggs, and is currently equipped to handle all fish culture aspects required for five million eggs from brood stock management until fry release.