The province has put together a team of experts to fast track the creation of a five-year action plan to guide the recovery of Kootenay Lake kokanee stocks.
The government worked with First Nations, the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and the BC Wildlife Federation to put together the advisory team, according to a news release.
The plan will be posted for public review by the end of March and implemented before the summer. It will also focus on maintaining Gerrard and bull trout stocks. Kokanee are the main food source for both these fish. Right now, the lake has an unusually high number of Gerrard trout, which is contributing to the steep decline in kokanee stocks.
Last fall, provincial biologists counted 18,000 spawning kokanee in the main body of Kootenay Lake and its tributaries, the lowest number since the annual count started in 1979. Scientists estimate that the fish laid 4.26 million eggs, down from a high of 265 million eggs in 1981.
Some steps have already been taken to address the declining kokanee stocks, including:
• Changing fishing regulations to decrease kokanee harvest and increase Gerrard trout harvest.
• Initiating an aggressive kokanee re-building program. Last year, biologists planted 500,000 eggs in Kootenay Lake spawning channels and released an additional 95,000 fry in 2015. Biologists will release another 500,000 fry into the lake this spring.
• Initiating a study of kokanee across the Province to identify stocks genetically suitable for future recovery efforts.
• Continuing spawning channel operations, nutrient restoration and fish health testing.