Freshwater sport fishery is an important cultural, recreational, and economic driver in British Columbia (BC), contributing greater than $500 million to the local economy. Across the province, 800 lakes are routinely supplemented with hatchery fish to promote angling opportunities and ensure the conservation of at-risk species. Climate change is threatening to extirpate wild populations of prized sportfish before they can be assessed, one of these sportfish being Kokanee salmon. Kokanee salmon is a species of strategic importance for supporting recreational fisheries due to its dual role as a sportfish and a key prey species to support other recreational fisheries. 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.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia, in partnership with Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC (FFSBC), Parks Canada, and BC Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations, aims to develop a suite of genomic tools that will help identify additional candidate hatchery stocks, monitor hatchery production, and assess fish health. The team will also characterize twenty populations of Kokanee across BC and Yukon to find stocks tolerant to harsh environmental conditions. Candidate populations will be further evaluated on swimming performance and cardiac fitness under extreme thermal stress to define tolerant fishes' molecular profile. This study will develop and deploy genomic resources for enhancing Kokanee productivity and sustainability to help position Kokanee as a "fish of the future".