Penticton and South Okanagan
Counting on sockeye
Oct 7, 2013 / 3:33 pm
Sockeye salmon currently making their way up the Okanagan River Channel, are being watched more closely than ever this year.
The Okanagan Nation Alliance recently started a trial study in Penticton to determine how many of the fish are spawning in the channel.
"It's all part of the alliance's goal to re-introduce Sockeye into the upper portion of the Okanagan system," said Howie Wright, program manager for the alliance's fisheries department. "Since 2011, adults have been making it into Skaha Lake and spawning in the channel."
Components of the count, of both Sockeye and Kokanee, include an acoustic array, which is sonar signals used to identify the fish, and a tower set up on the river bank.
People currently work in shifts on the tower to make visual observations of the fish. Part of the observation process is a mark and recapture study.
"We are tagging fish, traveling north from the Columbia River, at the Skaha dam outlet in Okanagan Falls," said Wright. "We know how many are tagged and released, so the recapture part is how many we see at the location where the tower is."
Usually the count is done by people floating down the channel in a boat. So the hope is they will be able to get a better count with the 24-7 sonar system, said Marlon Lezard, a fisheries technician with the alliance and Penticton Indian Band member.
The study also goes hand in hand with the start of construction of a fish hatchery on PIB land.
"This goes with that, as well as with the fish ladder being put at Skaha dam in 2015, so there will be lots of salmon in here," he said, as he watched fish jump and make their way up the channel.
The count is expected to continue into early November, and the exact number of fish won't be known until all the data is in.
In addition to developing accurate counts of the fish, the goal is to meet conservation, management and scientific monitoring of the Sockeye stocks.
"Salmon was an integral part of the Okanagan First Nations culture, and part of that is having the salmon back for ceremonies and harvest," said Wright.
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