Monday May 23, 2022


A chance discovery of nearly-forgotten, close to half-century-old kokanee salmon samples from Kluane National Park and Reserve are helping shape present-day conservation efforts. 

Using modern techniques, researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Okanagan campus extracted DNA from the historic fin and scale samples, collected as part of routine field work in the 1970s and early ’80s, and compared it to recent samples from wild and hatchery-raised kokanee. 

The salmon currently in the park’s Kathleen Lake system, they found, aren’t so genetically different from their ancestors, while the hatchery kokanee had diverged to the point where they shouldn’t be reintroduced into the wild.

Kokanee are nearly identical to sockeye salmon, save for the fact that they’re land-locked, meaning they don’t migrate to the ocean.

The population in the Kathleen Lake system is the northernmost in Canada and is known for its boom-and-bust cycles — since the early 2000s, anywhere between 20 and more than 5,000 fish have returned to their spawning grounds. 

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