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COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Sockeye Salmon Oncorhynchus nerka Sakinaw population in Canada


Sakinaw sockeye salmon reproduce only in SakinawLake, situated on the Sechelt Peninsula in the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, and thus, can be considered endemic to Canada. However, they share marine migration corridors and foraging habitat in the north Pacific Ocean with many other sockeye salmon populations. The following summary is included to provide perspective on the distribution and trends in distribution of sockeye salmon at the species level.

Global Range

Typically, sockeye salmon are an anadromous species occurring naturally throughout the north Pacific Ocean and in accessible rivers north of 40°N. In North America they occur naturally in the Columbia River (Oregon, Washington, and Idaho), north through British Columbia, the Yukon, southeast and western Alaska as far north as Kotzebue Sound (Figure 3); in Asia they occur from the southern Kuril Islands and Komandorskiy Island to the northwest coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, throughout Kamchatka and north to the Anadyr River (Foerster 1968, Burgner 1991). Both the overall abundance and geographic density of these populations are highest in Kamchatka, western Alaska and British Columbia.

Figure 3: Natural Range of Sockeye Salmon and Kokanee Within North America (highlighted area, after Wood 1995)

Figure 3: Natural range of sockeye salmon and kokanee within North America(highlighted area, after Wood 1995).

The heavy box indicates the area included in Figure 7.

Anadromous sockeye salmon have generally declined in abundance in the southernparts of their range (Ricker 1982, Gresh et al. 2000). They no longer occur naturally in Hokkaido and California, although some populations persist as non-anadromous kokanee. Dams now preclude anadromous runs to large areas of the Columbia River and other smaller drainages in the contiguous United States and British Columbia. Several summary articles (Konkel and McIntyre 1987, Nehlsen et al. 1991, Wilderness Society 1993, Botkin et al. 1995; Slaney et al. 1996) suggest that numerous local populations of sockeye salmon in the Pacific Northwest have become extinct, and that the abundance of many others is depressed.

Canadian Range

In Canada, anadromous sockeye salmon occur in many rivers accessible from the Pacific Ocean, from the Fraser River to the Alsek River, and in headwaters of the Columbia River (Okanagan). On occasion, they have also been reported in the Arctic Ocean and MacKenzie River (D. Chiperzak, DFO, unpubl. data). Non-anadromous populations (kokanee) are widespread in Pacific drainages, especially in the Fraser River and coastal lakes that have become inaccessible to anadromous sockeye through isostatic rebound following deglaciation. Kokanee are also known to occur in a few locations in the Arctic drainage adjacent to the Fraser drainage (the Liard and Peace rivers, C.J. Foote, Malaspina University College, pers. comm.).