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Kokanee crisis continues

Fishing ban only prevents further loss

by Judie Steeves
Staff Writer Capital News
September 22, 1995

A repeat of last year’s record low numbers of spawning kokanee in local streams is predicted by the fisheries head for the environment ministry’s district office.

Biologist Bruce Shepherd admits that if pushed to predict, he would estimate that a total of 100,000 spawning kokanee will return this year to shores and streams, with a further 20,000 because of the ban on fishing them this year in Okanagan Lake.

Like the ocean-going salmon, these little silver landlocked salmon turn red and miraculously navigate back to the stream or shore of their birth in the fall of their fourth year, before they die.

Last year’s record low number of kokanee returning to spawn rang alarm bells that reverberated throughout the province, resulting in an immediate ban of fishing them in the big lake, and a weekend “think tank” of scientists trying to ferret out the possible reasons for the decline in population.

A report on that meeting, held at Kelowna’s Okanagan University College campus at the end of June, was not ready in August as had been hoped, and Shepherd doesn’t now expect it will be ready until closer to the end of the year because of the press of other fishery business, including the Forest Practices Code, and the Land and Resource Management Plan.

However, at least one of the possible causes for the drastic reduction in kokanee is the introduction of mysis shrimp in Okanagan Lake years ago as food for fish. They turned out to be in competition for food with young kokanee.

How to reduce the numbers of those shrimp now was one of the questions discussed in June, and Shepherd says he was surprised to learn they aren’t as prolific as he’d thought, so it might be possible to reduce their numbers.

Also called opossum shrimp, they’re a pouch breeder, producing 10-15 young which have a 2-3 year lifespan, so even a slight increase in their mortality rate could make a big difference in the population.