Skip to main content

Missing fish a dark omen

The Daily Courier
Monday, September 28, 1998

Pity the kokanee.

What was once a healthy, flourishing freshwater species is now on the brink of obliteration. Fewer than 1,000 spawners are struggling up Mission Creek, Okanagan Lake’s largest source. Twenty-six years ago, 300,000 filled the same creek.

Peter Dill, a leading expert on kokanee behaviour, fears the worst. Despite superhuman efforts by sports clubs and volunteers, this is a population that appears destined for extinction.

Why? Dill blames it on poor water management. The keepers of our flood-control systems, irriagation and drinking water didn’t consider other animals living in the Okanagan.

They focused only on water — not water as part of the ecosystem. As a result, the gravel on creek beds where spawners lay their eggs was largely washed away.

By ignoring water as a component of the environment and exploiting it as a separate entity, our forebears robbed us of a crucial link in our ecosystem. Without the kokanee, other organisms will meet the same fate.

It may be too late for this species. but we can certainly pull up our socks to save others. By thinking locally and acting locally, we can all make a difference.

Children are painting storm drains. Volunteers are cleaning up creeks and planting trees.

Students at four local schools are fertilizing kokanee eggs in 30-gallon taks and will release them as fry in June.

Children are learning how to make bird feeders using pine cones, peanut butter and seeds. Adults are rejuvenating Brandt’s Creek, one of the most neglected streams in our area.

Residents are installing low-flush toilets, composting table scraps, watering their lawns at night, and eating food in season.

But we need to do and learn more. By understanding mistakes of the past, we plan a less-intrusive future.

If we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.

The kokanee represent our wake-up call.