Upwards of 20,000 sockeye salmon are en route to Penticton and the public is invited to join in the celebration of their arrival.
The Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance and Okanagan Nation Alliance will be hosting its annual “Celebrate our Salmon” open house, sharing with locals the chance to observe sockeyes completing their 6,000- kilometre journey.
“It gives people the chance to come through and see the salmon spawning,” said Howie Wright, the ONA’s fisheries program manager. “It’s to start getting people aware in the area that sockeye do come back to the Okanagan. Not a lot of people know about that.”
It’s expected between 45,000 to 51,000 sockeye will descend upon the Okanagan, with some ending their journey in Oliver.
In comparison to last year, sockeye numbers dipped for 2019, but Wright explained return numbers are compared in four-year cycles.
In looking back to 2015, the count has since climbed.
“(2015) was the year there was quite a significant loss of sockeye in the lower Columbia River, with the higher river temperatures they had,” he said.
That year, Wright said, approximately 300,000 sockeye died en route home. It was also a year for low broodstock numbers.
“We’re just seeing the effects of four years ago,” he said. “This year, migration varied a bit better. It just shows the dynamic of salmon and their life history.”
Restoration work has also been underway to help the sockeye on their journey.
“It’s all channelized down in Oliver area and south,” said Wright. “What we’ve looked at is … taking the dykes, and setting them back to allow some of the natural river processes to occur again.”
Work is also taking place at the dam along the Okanagan River to allow for the sockeye to return to Okanagan Lake.
Wright hopes the open house will educate the public on the sensitivity of the sockeye during this important time.
“If (you’re) walking your dog, don’t let them go in the water at this time,” he said. “Don’t go too close from the water, observe them from a-ways-away.”
The celebration, which includes interpreters on site to discuss the sockeye’s lifecycle and other educational facts, runs from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 20 at the Okanagan River Channel, on both sides of the dam south of Okanagan Lake.
Parking is available at 75 Riverside Drive, beside Loco Landing.