Skip to main content

Fishing for solutions

Controversial report concludes public will have to pay to bring back Okanagan Kokanee

by Judie Steeves
Staff Writer, Capital News
Sunday, February 25, 1996

It’s going to cost money, the public must get involved and still there’s no guarantee an action plan to rebuild Kokanee stocks in Okanagan Lake will succeed.

However, a 110-page report on an Okanagan Lake workshop held at Okanagan University College last June will be released Monday in Penticton and the first step taken to fight crashing numbers of the little land-locked salmon native to the valley.

The report contains some controversial suggestions, including experiments to replace the phosphorus that governments have spent millions in the past few years rernoving from wastewater entering Okanagan Lake.

Although it states flatly that two large-scale experiments involving fertilization or changes in the operation of wastewater treatment plants were deleted by workshop participants because of the controversy around them, not all the scientists and technicians involved have forgotten the proposal.

There’s no question a microscopic shrimp named Mysis relicta is at fault for the decline in Kokanee stocks, because it competes with young Kokanee for feed, although the larger fish do feed on the shrimp as they mature. However, biologists shrug in frustration when it comes to the question of how to get rid of the little creature, ironically, introduced by man to local lakes three decades ago to improve fish stocks.

A list of 10 recommendations, including that a series of public information sessions be held this year, are included in the report, along with a five-year-plan of action to work on the problem.

Other recommendations are that a task force, consisting of a scientific advisory panel and technical committees should be set up, and the Okanagan Basin Study, completed in the early 1970s, should be updated.

Harvey Andrusak, director of the fisheries branch of the environment ministry, said from his Victoria office he estimates $150,000 will be needed in 1996 to get the plan underway, and more than $500,000 in the coming years.

He is committed to putting together a budget to try and deliver on some of the recommendations, he said, including monitoring programs and a continued investigation by OUC’s Dr. Peter Dill of shore spawning Kokanee.

He’s hopeful other levels of government will be prepared to buy into the program, since the loss of the Kokanee will have a significant impact on the valley’s tourism.

A ban on fishing for Kokanee in Okanagan Lake was instituted a year ago, and there’s no recommendation that it be lifted until at least the year 2001.