Invasive Fish in the Okanagan

Hi there folks, my name is Cole Phillips and I am from the small state of Vermont in the east coast of the United States. I am a twenty one year old student of Sara Ashpole's working in the Okanagan for the first half of this summer with a particular focus on fish and what a pleasure it has been so far. I come from a generation of fly fisherman and that is where my interest in fish comes from especially the preservation of fish and water quality. It really is wild to see how fish stocks have changed since my grandfather was fishing in the forties. My goal is to see a change of opinion from the public and see water quality and connectivity re-establish themselves with the help from restoration and conservation groups.

With that passion, I have come to the Okanagan to see what can be done. This project has some aspects directed towards restoring fish but it is more dedicated to removing invasive ones to bring this delicate system back to equilibrium. My focus has been surveying local ponds where private homeowners have introduced species like carp, koi, goldfish, and in some cases bass to their personal bodies of water for either recreation, viewing purposes, or mosquito control. What I am hoping to show people is that the introduction of these non-native species is extremely detrimental to native populations of amphibians. In the case of carp, they compete with native fish for food and have a voracious appetite, ultimately eliminating local fish stocks that have grown to cohabitate with amphibians like the threatened spade foot toad and tiger salamander. Carp stir up the bottom layer of bodies of water they inhabit and uproot plants, muddying the water and deteriorating habitat. So, these species should not be in the Okanagan making it even harder for locally adapted species to thrive. Bass are in a similar situation, when introduced without permit requirements to wetlands they negatively affect amphibians and insectivorous birds that are affected by over competition from these predatory fish.  

Over time, native species have adapted to the arid climate the Okanagan has to offer. They are designed to live here and species that are not can wipe out those delicate populations and when conditions become too harsh for those invasives there will be nothing left. That is not what anyone wants and before it's too late, we hope to alert people that these kinds of introductions need to stop. With the publics help, myself and conservation programs like the Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society, we can change this and preserve the future of this historic valley for generations to come. 

Until another day,