OKIB says sockeye release will go ahead in Okanagan Lake, despite delay

Two deaths in the band prompts a delay in the planned release, Okanagan Nation Alliance says it will still proceed

A run of sockeye salmon could return to Okanagan Lake if the Okanagan Nation Alliance has its way.

A run of sockeye salmon could return to Okanagan Lake if the Okanagan Nation Alliance has its way.

The Okanagan Indian Band says despite a delay in a planned release of sockeye salmon fry into Okanagan Lake, the release will still go ahead as part of the Okanagan Nation Alliance’s plan to re-introduce sockeye into Okanagan Lake this year.

The first of three releases was scheduled for last Friday evening, however two deaths within the OKIB forced the band to re-schedule.

“The sockeye fry release will still go ahead, but likely will not happen until after the funerals of the OKIB Councillor Homer Alexis and Senator Len Marchand (OKIB member, born in Vernon),” said OKIB spokesperson Shaylen Smith.

The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) released details of its plan to try to re-introduce sockeye salmon to Okanagan Lake last week, despite the lack of support from the provincial government, which is calling for more study, before the fry are released.

The ONA says it will release more than 200,000 fry into three different stream systems on Okanagan Lake: 6 Mile Creek near Vernon, Mission Creek in Kelowna and Trout Creek in Summerland.

But the plan is not going over well with the provincial government, which says the the results of a release of sockeye into Skaha Lake should be studied before plans move ahead.

The ONA has worked for the past 12 years to re-establish a sockeye run into Skaha and has had success with solid returns and also says there has been no negative impact on resident kokanee populations.

“The province believes we should further advance our understanding of the impacts from Canadian Okanagan Basin Technical Working Group’s (COBTWG) current work prior to undertaking further introduction of sockeye,” said Greig Bethel, public affairs officer with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. “The province has informed COBTWG of our views.”

The COBTWG has representatives from the province, the federal government and the ONA working on the re-introduction plan.

Despite the province’s opposition the chief of the OKIB, Byron Louis, maintained the plan will move ahead.

“To me this is an infringement of our rights,” he said. “It’s never been adequately justified by the province of why they are denying us this right. We’ve addressed every concern there is, now we’re at a point where enough is enough. If they want to take me to court and arrest me so be it. I’ve had it and so have our people. The same questions were settled out of the Skaha Lake reintroduction. At a certain point we have to act on behalf of the salmon.”