Wildlife

Kokanee salmon population bounces back in Kluane National Park

The return of over 5,000 kokanee salmon to Kluane National Park in southwest Yukon in 2015 was cause for excitement after the population was nearly declared extinct in 2009
  • Jun 24, 2016
  • 301 words
  • 2 minutes
Expand Image
Advertisement

The return of over 5,000 kokanee salmon to Kluane National Park in southwest Yukon in 2015 was cause for excitement after the population was nearly declared extinct in 2009.

“Historically about 3,000 kokanee return to the spawning beds, but in the early 2000’s the population plummeted to several hundred, and in 2009 we only counted 20 fish,” says Carmen Wong, ecological team leader with Parks Canada. “So the return of this many fish is truly astounding.”

The reason for the salmon’s return is unclear, but the leading hypothesis is that it’s climate driven. Sockeye salmon—which have the same genetic make up as kokanee salmon—also experience crashes and booms in their population which have been attributed to changes in water temperatures. Wong says this has led researchers to believe the same thing is happening with the kokanee.

“What’s really interesting about this population is it went to near extinction yet came back with basically no management, so we’re really going to put a lot of effort into figuring out if the role of climate can explain this” she says.

The fish will be counted again in August, and although the 2015 surge in numbers is promising, Wong says it’s too early to consider the population stable.

“It was only six years ago that we counted only 20 fish, so we’re nowhere near in the clear yet for declaring the recovery of this population,” she says. “But we do have reports that fishermen are catching and returning them to the water, so that’s a good indication that there are still lots of them around.”

While kokanee can be found across British Columbia and the western United States, this population is unique because it’s one of two wild populations in the Yukon, and is the only wild population found in a national park.

Advertisement
Canada's Greatest Women Explorers

This story is from the July/August 2016 Issue

Related Content

A crowd of tourist swarm on a lakeside beach in Banff National Park

Places

Smother Nature: The struggle to protect Banff National Park

In Banff National Park, Alberta, as in protected areas across the country, managers find it difficult to balance the desire of people to experience wilderness with an imperative to conserve it

  • 3507 words
  • 15 minutes
Andy McKinnon

Places

Canada’s first national urban park

It’s an ambitious plan: take the traditional Parks Canada wilderness concept and plunk it in the country’s largest city. But can Toronto’s Rouge National Urban Park help balance city life with wildlife?

  • 3601 words
  • 15 minutes

History

The hatchery crutch: How we got here

From their beginnings in the late 19th century, salmon hatcheries have gone from cure to band-aid to crutch. Now, we can’t live without manufactured fish. 

  • 4255 words
  • 18 minutes

Places

National parks beginning to reopen across the country

Not all, but many of Canada's national parks will reopen to some extent on June 1

  • 438 words
  • 2 minutes