Skip booklet index and go to page content

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

Existing Protection or Other Status Designations

In May 2005, COSEWIC assessed the Okanagan chinook as Endangered in an Emergency Assessment. Provincial and federal statutes and policies exist to protect fish and their freshwater and marine habitats. The provincial Water Act controls the diversion, usage, and storage of surface waters in B.C., which provides some protection to spawning and rearing habitat in the Okanagan River. The federal International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and International Rivers Improvement Act regulate the diversion, damming, and obstruction of international waterways, such as the Okanagan River and Osoyoos Lake, and provide some protection for migratory routes. The federal Fisheries Act regulates fishing and protects fish habitat from harmful alterations or destruction, and thus protects fish and their habitats throughout Canada.

In addition, Canada is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), which states that where there is a threat of significant decrease or loss of biological diversity, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to avoid or minimize such a threat. This principal is critical for a case such as the Okanagan chinook, which is not a well-studied population but appears to represent a significant portion of the biological diversity of chinook salmon in Canada. This convention states additional fundamental conservation principles that also apply to the Okanagan chinook, such as the need for conservation of biological diversity in situ and management of biological diversity in and outside of protected areas.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy (version 2005) states that the primary goals of the Wild Salmon Policy are to ensure the long-term viability of Pacific salmon populations in natural surroundings and to maintain fish habitat for all life stages for the sustainable benefit of the people of Canada. This document sets forth the principles for managing and conserving wild Pacific salmon, and lists as a target the Okanagan chinook.

Finally, the Pacific Salmon Treaty (1999) between Canada and the United States regulates fishing such that each country receives benefits equivalent to the production of salmon originating in its waters, and is intended to prevent overfishing while providing for optimum production. The mechanism for establishing fish allocations and creating management regimes for transboundary stocks falls to the Pacific Salmon Commission and joint Transboundary Technical Committees, respectively. There is currently no such committee for the Okanagan/Columbia River system. However, the Canadian Okanagan Basin Technical Working Group (COBTWG) and an ‘ad hoc’ Bilateral Okanagan Basin Technical Working Group (BOBTWG) has been meeting periodically to discuss fisheries issues in the Okanagan Basin. The COBTWG is comprised of the federal, provincial and Okanagan Nation fisheries agencies.