The BC Wildlife Federation is hugely disappointed that the Governor in Council has decided not to list the Thompson and Chilcotin River Steelhead Trout under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). This decision ignores the recommendations of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).
Fisheries conservationists know there is a more effective way of recovering the Interior Fraser Steelhead (IFS). Reaction to the announced plans for managing the endangered species is one of dismay and rejection. Provincial and federal governments plan to apply the same measures that have not improved IFS numbers during at least the last decade. Changing non-selective net closures from 27 to 42 days is only designed to mollify fisheries conservationists, as by-catch of endangered steelhead will still be allowed to continue. The two levels of government are intent on treating the symptoms, not the problem.
All the other measures in the plan are needed, but actually represent routine responsibilities of government. Measures such as watershed management, recreational fisheries closures, drought regulations, and mitigating the rock slide at the Big Bar area are necessary for the longer term, but will not help the IFS in the short term. BCWF past-president Harvey Andrusak calls the plan “nothing short of political smoke and mirrors.”
The science points to non-selective gill net fishing as the immediate cause of IFS decline. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has lost its way as it moves to populism while ignoring science because of reluctance to change fundamental fishing methods. Nor does either government provide the leadership or investment to address the fundamental issue of watershed sustainability. The old Federal/Provincial Fisheries Agreement needs to be updated to reflect a far more comprehensive approach for the management of fish and fish habitat.
Making the Steelhead management plan a priority for DFO, while failing to address the root causes of their demise, is unacceptable and unproductive. IFS deserve the full protection of a recovery plan under the federal Species at Risk Act. The current plan does not adequately address interception issues and are simply more of the same: the status quo.
BC Wildlife Federation