Kokanee salmon numbers at their lowest level since 1988

By David F. Rooney

Kokanee salmon numbers are at their lowest level since 1988 but no one knows why, says a BC government biologist.

“We did expect a low spawning escapement this year (due to lower numbers of this generation’s parents in 2008), but it was indeed even lower than anticipated, Jeff Burrows, senior fish biologist with the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations based in Nelson.

“Overall, Arrow Kokanee numbers in the index streams (ie not every single Kokanee stream but the consistent ones) we track annually were 76,000, the lowest on record since 1988.”

Burrows told The Current that in 1997, the previous low, “the numbers in the same streams was 88,600 so this in not unprecedented, and that year Upper Arrow Reservoir numbers were 24,600 compared to this year’s Upper Arrow count of 44,900.”

The highest observed number of spawners in the same streams was 874,000 (ten times as high) in 2004.

“The sky is not falling as Kokanee populations always compensate very well from low numbers; population sustainability and conservation are not threatened, but we’ve certainly shelved proposals for increased Kokanee sport fishing quotas for the time being,” he said.

“Upper Arrow reservoir has always had highly variable Kokanee performance; we can’t pin down exactly what’s going on this year but have a number of hypotheses — most of which we can’t do much about.”

He said the best things that can be done include continued operation of the Hill Creek Kokanee Spawning Channel, continued annual nutrient restoration and the maintenance of prudent sport fishing regulations.