Salute to the Sockeye draws thousands to the Shuswap

Once every four years, a natural phenomenon takes place at Adams River in the Shuswap. About a million salmon return to their birth site to spawn and end their life cycle.

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“They are born here in the Adams River and they spend their juvenile year and a half in the Shuswap Lake before travelling down the Fraser River into the ocean,” event manager Natalya Melnychuk explains. “Then they come back at the end of the four years and swim back up to where they were born and lay their eggs and then die. It’s an amazing species because the children never actually meet their parents.”

Once the fish die, they decompose and their remains get eaten by the juvenile salmon as well as other species.

“It actually feeds the entire ecosystem here, so bears and eagles and other birds,” Melnychuk said. “The biodiversity in this area is very drawn by the nitrogen that comes from the sockeye salmon.”

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Tom Nevin, a community adviser with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, says a female sockeye can carry up to 4,000 eggs.

“The males are staying very close to the females in hopes that they drop the eggs and the males are also chasing other males away from their female mates,” Nevin explains. “And then the females  will actually chase females away from their preferred nesting area. There’s all kinds of mating dynamics going on here.”

The event, which has been on since September 28, is expected to attract between 100,000 to 200,000 visitors from all across the globe.

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In addition to viewing the salmon, there are several events to entertain visitors including riverside yoga, live music with local musicians, a language workshop and a local author signing.

The Salute to the Sockeye Festival runs until Oct. 21 at Tsútswecw Provincial Park (formerly Roderick Haig-Brown Park). The cost is $5 per vehicle, which will go towards amenities and services needed to run the event.

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