April 07, 2021
Genomic tools will support Kokanee salmon
Vancouver, BC — Freshwater sport fishing is an important cultural, recreational and economic driver in British Columbia (BC), contributing more than $500 million to the provincial economy. Across the province, 800 lakes are routinely supplemented with hatchery fish to promote angling opportunities and ensure the conservation of at-risk species.
However, climate change is threatening the survival of wild populations of many prized sport fish before they can be assessed. One of the species at risk is Kokanee salmon, a species that has strategic importance for supporting recreational fisheries due to its dual role as a sport fish and as the primary diet for other recreational fish such as rainbow and bull trout. The recent collapse of the main wild Kokanee stock used to supplement lakes around North America has amplified the need to identify robust stocks that can thrive in changing environments.
Genome BC is funding researchers Michael Russello and Scott Hinch from the University of British Columbia, who, in partnership with Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, Parks Canada, and BC Ministry of Forests, Land, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, aim to develop a suite of genomic tools that will help identify additional candidate hatchery stocks, monitor hatchery production, and assess fish health. The project outcomes include the characterization of over twenty populations of Kokanee across BC and the Yukon to find stocks tolerant to a range of environmental conditions.
“Kokanee are excellent table fare year round and have become an increasingly popular fish targeted by recreational anglers, especially in the winter and summer months,” says Adrian Clarke, Vice President, Science, Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC. “Work from this project is expected to help improve the productivity of our hatchery operations while meeting the growing demand for this species; by conservative estimates the stocking efficiencies and increased licence sales could result in an annual economic benefit of $4.9 million to our province.”
Candidate populations that demonstrate these desirable characteristics will be further evaluated on swimming performance and cardiac fitness under extreme water temperatures. The results will inform the development and deployment of genomic resources for enhancing Kokanee productivity and sustainability to help position Kokanee as a “fish of the future”.
“Genome BC’s investment has both immediate and long-term applications,” says Dr. Federica Di Palma, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Sectors at Genome BC. “These genomic tools will inform management practices today and provide tools to maintain stocks for the future.”
This work was funded through Genome BC’s GeneSolve program which seeks to foster applied and translational research by connecting the producers of genomics driven technologies with its end-users or consumers in BC’s Health, Agrifood and Natural Resources sectors.
Contact: Jennifer Boon, Communications Manager, Public and Media Relations