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COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Chinook Salmon (Okanagan population) in Canada


Assessment Summary

Assessment Summary – April 2006

Common name:
Chinook salmon - Okanagan population

Scientific name:
Oncorhynchus Tshawytscha


Reason for designation:
The Chinook salmon (Okanagan population) are the only remaining Columbia Basin population of Chinook salmon in Canada, and are geographically, reproductively and genetically distinct from all other Canadian Chinook salmon populations. They consist of anadromous salmon that migrate to and from the Pacific Ocean through the Columbia River, and also individuals that remain in Osoyoos Lake. The Chinook salmon (Okanagan population) was once large enough to support an important food and trade fishery prior to settlement by non-native people. The population used to occupy the area from Osoyoos Lake to Okanagan Lake, but McIntyre Dam has limited access to only the area below the dam and in Osoyoos Lake. As well as this habitat loss, the population was depleted by historic overfishing in the Columbia River and juvenile and adult mortality due to dams downstream on the Columbia River. Fisheries exploitation in the ocean, deterioration in the quality of the remaining Canadian habitat, and new predators and competitors such as non-native fishes also contributed to the current depleted state of the population. Genetic data show evidence of successful reproduction and maturation by individuals in this population, but also that this small population has genetic diversity similar to much larger populations in adjacent areas of the Columbia River basin, and is closely related to those populations. The genetic data, as well as the presence of fish of hatchery origin in the Canadian portion of the Okanagan River, indicate that it is very likely that fish from elsewhere in the upper Columbia River basin have contributed reproductively to the population. With spawning numbers as low as 50 adults, the population is at risk of extinction from habitat loss, exploitation and stochastic factors, but may also be subject to rescue from populations in adjacent areas of the Columbia River basin.

British Columbia, Pacific Ocean

Status history:
Designated Endangered in an emergency assessment on May 4th, 2005. Status re-examined and designated Threatened in April 2006. Assessment based on a new status report.