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


Global Range

Spawning populations of chinook salmon are distributed from northern Hokkaido (Japan) to the Anadyr River (Russia) on the Asian coast, and from central California to Kotzebue Sound (Alaska) on the North American coast (Figure 3). Spawning occurs from near tidewater to over 3,200 km upstream in the headwaters of the Yukon River (Major et al., 1978 cited in Healey, 1991). Spawning stream-type and ocean-type chinook populations are geographically separated to a considerable degree: whereas Asian and Alaskan chinook populations are mainly stream-type, those in the remainder of the North American populations are predominantly ocean-type (Healey, 1983, Healey, 1991). Where stream- and ocean-type populations are found in the same river, stream-type fish tend to be found in headwater spawning areas and ocean-type in downstream spawning areas (Myers et al., 1998; Healey and Jordan, 1982), although these behavioural “types” may simply be a continuum of temperature-driven behaviour (Brannon et al. 2004). While ocean-type chinook tend not to disperse more than 1000 km from their natal river or far from shore (Healey, 1983), stream-type chinook tend to disperse more broadly and further offshore (Healey, 1991).

Figure 3: Map of the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea, showing the distribution of chinook spawning populations (stippled)

Figure 3: Map of the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea, showing the distribution of chinook spawning populations.

Used with permission from M.C. Healey, Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Canadian Range

Chinook salmon are native to rivers along the entire west coast of Canada, and may also be found in rivers on the Arctic coast (Healey, 1983). In addition, naturally spawning populations may have become established from transplants in the Laurentian Great Lakes (Carl, 1984).

In the Okanagan Basin (Figure 4), First Nations have reported that chinook were once heavily fished at Okanagan Falls (i.e., outlet of Skaha Lake), and that chinook were able to reach both Skaha and Okanagan Lakes (Ernst, 1999; Ernst and Vedan, 2000). Corroboration of these claims is found in the reports of Clemens et al. (1939), Gartrell (DFO, unpublished files, December 1919 and April 1920), and Kelowna Fish and Game Association (DFO, unpublished files, August 1924). Chinook cannot currently reach either Okanagan Falls or any of the lakes upstream of Osoyoos Lake due to the presence of McIntyre dam at the outlet of Vaseaux Lake.

Figure 4: Map of Okanagan Basin in Relation to British Columbia and Washington State

Figure 4: Map of Okanagan Basin in relation to British Columbia and Washington State.

Map reprinted with permission of Paul Rankin, DFO.