It’s odd to see a commercial shrimp trawler on Okanagan Lake.
But, as part of an experiment to investigate the possible shift in populations of the introduced mysis diluviana or opossum shrimp, fishery vessels and processing barges have moved from their usual spot outside Vernon to the Squally Point area near Peachland.
Senior fisheries biologist Tara White with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, says the commercial shrimp fishery is part of an experimental freshwater shrimp fishery created in 2000 to help reduce the population of mysis in Okanagan Lake.
They were introduced to the lake in the 1970s as feed for kokanee, to help improve the game fishery.
However, it turned out they had the opposite affect, competing with young kokanee for feed, so the commercial shrimp fishery was established to help reduce their numbers and improve conditions for plunging populations of kokanee.
White said they believe the shrimp population may be shifting to more southerly parts of the lake from the north, so they will be conducting experimental hauls to collect data in the coming weeks.
Two companies harvest the shrimp for use in pet food, nutraceuticals and cosmetics.
The annual harvest of freshwater shrimp takes place between May and October and has averaged 40 metric tonnes a year between 2000 and 2010, she said.
The importance of the game fishery on Okanagan Lake is significant.
Freshwater anglers spend $480 million every year on fishing equipment, travel and accommodations and hospitality services, supporting 7,500 jobs.