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Syilx restore salmon stocks in Okanagan Lake

Okanagan Nation Alliance is working to re-introduce sockeye
Spawning sockeye salmon are seen making their way up the Adams River in Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park near Chase, B.C. on Oct. 14, 2014. Optimism over an expected bumper season for wild British Columbia sockeye salmon has turned to distress, after a regulatory body’s estimate of returns to the Fraser River dropped by nearly half this week. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) is working to reintroduce Okanagan sockeye salmon on Syilx territory.

After a large salmon run in 2022, the ONA is undertaking one of its largest sockeye fry releases, with nearly four million fry to be released in the Okanagan sub-basin during the 2023 season.

Salmon fry were released into Lower Vernon Creek at the Marshall Field dog park on Okanagan Landing Road on Tuesday, May 9 at 10 a.m.

It’s the first time the sockeye reintroduction initiative has released fry into Lower Vernon Creek.

“This work is a continuation of the Syilx Nation commitment to our responsibilities of restoring and reintroducing back into the traditional water ways of sc’win (Okanagan sockeye salmon),” the ONA said.

“We are excited to release roughly 4.9 million sockeye fry in the territory with four million of the total into tributaries that feed into kłusxnitkw (Okanagan Lake).”

Out of those four million, almost two million will be released in Mission Creek in Kelowna.

In addition to releases in the Okanagan Basin, the ONA will release fry into the Columbia River. The releases this season are based on decades of sustained effort by the ONA to re-establish sockeye salmon populations, which contribute to both food security and cultural revitalization for Syilx people.

The ONA says it’s worked for decades towards achieving salmon passage back to Okanagan Lake, adding the importance of returning salmon to the lake is heightened by the fact that the cooler waters of the lake provide the salmon a “haven” in the face of climate change and warming waters, which can prevent salmon from returning and laying their eggs.

“Bringing sc’win back to creeks and streams on kłusxnitkw, like Lower Vernon Creek, are a direct result of Syilx advocacy, self-determination, and assertion of our Syilx collective responsibilities to govern, manage and stewards our lands and resources,” said Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis. “The success of this work is directly connected to our ability to collaborate with a variety of partners and can be seen in the historic returns of sc’win to the Columbia watershed this last year.”

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Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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