More droughts mean more kokanee salmon deaths, says biologist

More droughts mean more kokanee salmon deaths, says biologist

While the salmon populations have been stable, climate change could have an effect on the fish

Even though the Okanagan’s creek spawning kokanee salmon population has been stable for the last few years, climate change is still concerning a fish biologist in the region.

Tara White, senior fisheries biologist with the province for the Okanagan region, said she has yet to release the final numbers for returning kokanee spawners this year, but shoreline kokanee spawning populations have been increasing for the past 10 years. Creek spawning kokanee populations have been declining.

“It’s hard to say at this point but it’s definitely concerning in terms of increased frequency of low flows and droughts that we’re seeing, particularly (on) the impact on all of our streams,” she said. “Rainbow trout, kokanee, species at risk, it’s definitely a concern in the summer months… because the lethal range for (the fish) is typically around 18 to 24 C and it depends on the number of days they’re subjected to these temperatures.”

READ MORE: Kokanee headed upstream to spawn and die

As more droughts frequent the Okanagan, “there may be an increased frequency of fish kill,” White said. “Fish come up in the fall to spawn and there’s not necessarily enough water in the streams.”

While kokanee river spawners have been declining, the population in the Okanagan has been stable in the last three to four years, she said.

A historic drought in 2015 prevented the fish from spawning due to low water levels and in 2017 floods in the Okanagan also impacted the creek spawners, as sediment prevented the salmon from reaching their spawning grounds, she said.

“That’s been the biggest challenge the last few years in the Okanagan is ensuring access from the lake to the (spawning streams) and sufficient water,” she said. “We’ve been working with municipalities, First Nations to ensure we have access at the mouth (of the streams.)”

Shorts Creek in Fintry Provincial Park had two metres of sediment that collected at the mouth of the creek in 2017.

However, Wood Lake had good water levels this year for Middle Vernon Creek, White said. But a 2015 drought is still affecting the population.

“We suspect the survival of eggs and kokanee fry during that year were lower, so as a result, you have lower numbers coming back three years later in 2018,” White said.

From 2016 to 2017, the population had a historic number of fish returns from 34,000 to 36,000 fish in Wood Lake, she said. “When haven’t seen numbers close to that since the mid 1990s.”

The focus is on the protection of habitat, there is an ongoing Penticton Creek restoration initiative, a concrete plume is being removed to provide a natural bottom.

In Mission Creek, there’s been a set back of the dykes with the intent of recovering loss habitat and deep water refuge areas for salmon.

“The additional benefit to set back the dykes is also to reduce flooding in the City of Kelowna,” she said.

The last 10 years have seen progress in water use plans. All environmental plans in the Okanagan have water use plans to determine how low water levels can be, she said.

READ MORE: Kokanee to make their way back to Kelowna

“We’re in a similar range for creek and shore spawners to 2016, 2017 years,” she said. Wood Lake numbers are a third of 2016, 2017 because the last few years were historic runs.

Skaha is similar to 2016, 2017 numbers and Kalamalka Lake saw a slight decline.

The kokanee population crashed in the mid ‘90s, she said, because of high water temperatures and slow flows in streams.


edit@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Authorities have confirmed a case of COVID-19 within a school in Kelowna. Someone within the Rutland Elementary School community has tested positive. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express/FILE)
Authorities confirm COVID-19 exposure in Kelowna school

Interior Health (IH) states they will be following up with anyone potentially exposed

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said the city won’t look at changing its policy regarding automatic cost of living pay bumps for himself and city councillors, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. (File)
Kelowna won’t look at nixing automatic pay raises for council, mayor

Mayor Colin Basran said the raise is minuscule, won’t look at changing policy amid residents’ COVID struggles

Kevin Lee Barrett is charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault. (Facebook)
Court hears of victim’s injuries in West Kelowna attempted murder trial

Two-week-long trial continues for Kevin Barrett, accused of trying to kill mother in West Kelowna

Homeless man lying on the bench. (File photo)
Temporary emergency shelter opens in Kelowna

The shelter, located at the former location of Tree Brewing, will offer 38 beds

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

Icewine is thicker and sweeter than regular table wine, and takes longer to produce. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Mild winter brings small icewine harvest for Central Okanagan vintners

It must be -8 C or lower before grapes can be harvested for icewine

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in B.C. school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Vaccine rollout is focused on health care workers first, especially those dealing with long-term care facilities. (Nathan Denette - Canadian Press)
General public shouldn’t expect vaccines until fall: Interior Health South Okanagan Similkameen

Interior Health focused on vaccinating long-term and first-line care workers

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read