Learn all about Okanagan Lake's shrimp boat fleet

Shrimping the Okanagan

You don't have to be Forrest Gump to start your own career as a shrimp fisherman.

In fact, Okanagan Lake has its own shrimp fleet.

Piscine Energetics operates research vessels that harvest mysis shrimp from the lake.

Harvesting has been ongoing each summer since 2000.

It was started in response to falling kokanee numbers.

The shrimp had been introduced in the 1960s and were seen as a food source for the fish. For a few years, record size kokanee were caught.

But, the plan soon backfired when it was realized the shrimp were competing for food with the kokanee fry.

Kokanee numbers have since rebounded somewhat, with limited fishing returning in recent years.

A recent ad recruiting shrimp boat deckhands explains Piscine's "mission to restore fish populations to their natural levels through the management of invasive aquatic organisms."

The freshwater zooplankton were "deliberately introduced to Lake Okanagan in 1966 ... (and) intended to provide a natural forage to increase lake rearing conditions for declining kokanee salmon stocks," the company says.

"As mysis biomass exploded into uncontrollable numbers, the natural food web was disturbed and juvenile salmon began to starve, as mysis shrimp compete for the same microscopic organisms in the lake to feed on."

Piscine uses the tiny shrimp to create fish feed, supplying zoos and public aquariums, hobbyists and the global aquaculture market.

The May to September mysis harvest is overseen by the Ministry of Environment.

Harvesting takes place at night, when the shrimp rise to the lake's surface.

Nets are deployed from a catch vessel towed 100 yards behind the main trawl boat.

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