FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 24, 2018
The BC Wildlife Federation is calling on Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to immediately list and manage Interior Fraser steelhead under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). The Committee on Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) did an emergency assessment of the species when returns hit record lows last year and recommended that the Interior Fraser steelhead are at imminent risk of extinction and should be listed under SARA, a position the BCWF fully supports.
The federation is disappointed that no action has been taken to save the steelhead since COSEWIC’s recommendation to list them under SARA on January 10, 2018. BCWF’s director of strategic initiatives Alan Martin said, “We are very concerned that current net fishing practices on the Fraser River are further harming the weaker salmon, sturgeon and endangered steelhead stocks. We can’t afford to lose any more of these vulnerable species.”
Sports fishing groups working in alliance with the BCWF to save the at risk steelhead are reporting that the roe fishery has left male chum salmon and other bycatch on the beaches of the Fraser River. According to reports in the Chilliwack media outlet theprogress.com, “found among the dumped fish is an endangered Thompson steelhead and hundreds of chinook, coho and male chum salmon.” The area is closed to sports fishing.
A focus on rebuilding these stocks and truly selective fisheries is a unifying objective socially and culturally, rather than the current approach of managing to zero taken by DFO with steelhead and other weak stocks where the focus is the allocation of a diminishing resource base. A section 11 of SARA agreement between Canada and British Columbia for Chilcotin and Thompson steelhead is essential for the long-term sustainability of these fish. It would describe how the parties work together to support the survival and recovery of these populations and other weak salmon stocks.
Significant investment in research is required in the freshwater and marine environments, using modern research techniques including genomics, remote sensing and evolving assessment techniques that could re-establish the place in fisheries research and management B.C.’s academic and research facilities had in the past internationally.
The protection and enhancement of wild salmon, steelhead and sturgeon must include First Nations, local government, industry and stakeholders. Protection and restoration of key habitats and development of selective fishing could provide economic social and cultural benefits in crucial watersheds in rural B.C. Working shoulder to shoulder with Indigenous Peoples on these habitat and sustainability issues would be a big step towards recognition and reconciliation.