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  • Okisollo Channel

    Project Staff

    Origin of place name:  This 22-kilometre-long body of water wraps around the northern end and northeastern side of Quadra Island, separating it from Sonora and Maurelle Islands. The name applies to the channel from Discovery Passage to Surge Narrows.

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      According to The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names, "Okisollo is an adaptation of a Kwakwala or Lekwala word meaning 'channel" or 'passageway." When Captain George Vancouver travelled through this region in 1792, it was occupied by the Coast Salish tribes of the Island Comox. In the early 1800s, however, the Lekwiltok First Nation took control of Quadra Island and the surrounding area and forced the Island Comox further south. The Lekwiltok are part of the Kwakwaka'wakw cultural allinance, and their language, Lekwala, is related to Kwakwala. Place names in the vicinity changed over the years to reflect this altered ownership. Okisollo has appeared on old charts as Okis Hollow Channel. The nearby Okis Islands are possibly an abbreviation of this name."

      The channel includes two notable stretches of tidal rapids, the Upper Rapids near Cooper Point, and the Lower Rapids to the south of the Okis Islands. Canadian Yachting provides mariners a description of how to navigate these rapids under power. The Upper Rapids, which are more turbulent, have a remarkable feature—a standing wave—that attracts white-water kayakers from around the world.





      Okisollo Channel is not all fun and no work, though. As of November 2017 the channel contained four open-net fish farms. Fish farms in the Discovery Islands, introduced in the mid-1980s, have been a contentious issue. The Discovery Islands farms were singled out by the 2013 Cohen Commission investigation into the possible causes of a dramatic decline in Fraser River sockeye salmon runs in 2013. Most Fraser River sockeye pass through the area's tidal passages during their first year of life. Opponents of the farms contend that wild salmon headed out to the Pacific are exposed to disease and sea lice as they pass close to the net pens, which increases mortality in young salmon. They also argue that returning salmon may be infected with viruses  from farmed salmon that detrimentally affect their ability to reach their spawning grounds. Cohen's $37-million report recommended a moratorium on further expansion of fish farms in the Discovery Islands. He also recommended that “If at any time between now and September 30, 2020, the minister of fisheries and oceans determines that net-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands (fish health sub-zone 3-2) pose more than a minimal risk of serious harm to the health of migrating Fraser River sockeye salmon, he or she should promptly order that those salmon farms cease operations.” Cohen called for appropriate “research and analysis” to determine the risk.

      The presence of the fish farms has inspired some local residents to do their own research into the issue. Notable among those have been Jodi and Tavish Campbell of Sonora Island who have, among other things, produced videos about their investigations, including those linked below.



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