Steelhead Society 2011 AGM Overview

On January 29 the Steelhead Society of BC held its Annual General Meeting at the Langley BCGEU office. The AGM was highlighted by a number of guest speakers and a full house of members.  The first guest speaker, Dr. Craig Orr of Watershed Watch was also presented with the Society's highest honour - The Cal Woods Conservation Award - a richly deserved honour for his tireless work on behalf of wild salmonids -  particularly as one of the leaders in the fight against open-pen salmon farms.  We all owe Dr. Orr a sincere thank you.


Dr. Orr's presentation was titled Thompson Steelhead - Keep It Wild.  Rather than present an "anti-hatchery diatribe" Dr. Orr chose to focus on the biological traits and advantages of wild Thompson steelhead.  He demonstrated that not all salmon or steelhead are created equally and that Thompson steelhead are an example of a genetically superior stock.  Rather than focus on hatcheries as solutions Dr. Orr suggested some things that we should consider for Thompson steelhead and steelhead in general.  He stated that tackling what he termed the inshore bottleneck should be a priority.  There has been very little research done in this area and due to DFO's conflict of interest with managing fish farms they are not willing to look at them as a source of the problem.  Dr. Orr also stated that fish farms are vectors for disease transfer from farmed fish to wild fish.  Other factors that Dr. Orr cited as important are; identifying problems that result in a return bottleneck through improving our confidence in catch monitoring in both commercial and aboriginal fisheries, as well as dealing with the Water Act and protecting groundwater.

Dr.Orr advocates "all hands on deck" for habitat and says the formula for success is not so secret - wild plus diverse equals resilience.  He states that the key to sustainability is not to optimize part of the system for enhancement (like a hatchery), rather to enhance the overall resilience of the whole system.  He believes there is a need to prompt the government to do its job and finally Dr. Orr said that the people need to be more vocal for the Thompson.

The next group of speakers were; Al Lill from The Living Rivers Trust Fund and Kevin Pellett and Dave Harper from the BC Conservation Foundation - Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, and Vancouver Island respectively.  Before their presentation outgoing SSBC President Jason Tonelli presented Kevin Pellett with a $5000.00 cheque from the Society for their Nimpkish River fertilization project.


Al Lill spoke about the history and mission of The Living Rivers Trust Fund.  Al outlined how they are an outgrowth of the Steelhead Recovery Plan and are involved in fund raising and partnering with many different contributors to undertake a whole range of projects.  Harper and Pellett reported on their respective BCCF projects, both proposed and in progress.  As well Dave Harper asked for volunteer help with some Lower Mainland fertilization and monitoring projects.

Retiring SSBC President Jason Tonelli outlined the Society's recent activities and our continued fight for steelhead and other salmonids.  Jason reminded us in this the SSBC's 41st year in operation, that we have seen some encouraging signs, like the improved fish numbers in the Skeena and the Dean, as well as winter run returns on some Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island streams.  However, he reminds us that the forces that threaten steelhead continue to grind away at our precious resource and we must redouble our efforts on behalf of the Thompson, Squamish and East Coast Vancouver Island rivers.

One of the most exciting developments over the past year has been the resurgence of the SSBC in the north.  Our Northern Branch has been incredibly active both with habitat issues and fighting major threats like the proposed Enbridge pipeline and coal bed methane threats to the Sacred Headwaters of the Nass, Stikine and Skeena rivers.  The full 8 page report is available elsewhere on the website. (insert link?) Director and Chair of the Comox Valley Branch, Larry Peterson gave his report in which he echoed the same concerns that steelhead face elsewhere.  He urged us to demonstrate more political will in fighting for the Thompson and other systems.  As well, Larry indicates a need for for industrial buy in - logging, farming, hydro, road building, house building, etc. - to protect streams.  He also stated that it is ludicrous that there is no groundwater protection in the Provincial Groundwater Act.  The Comox Valley Branch is looking to bring the major players together at the table to discuss the east coast Vancouver Island issues.  So far they have Hydro willing to take part, but are still working on commitments from forestry interests and politicians.

After the speakers there was a short break before the business portion of the AGM began.  The Treasurer's Report showed that our finances are in good shape.  The business meeting was highlighted by the election of new Officers.  Congratulations go to Brian Braidwood the Society's new President.  As well; Vice presidents Tyler Kushnir, Ralf Kroning and Trevor Welton, Treasurer Scott Braidwood, Secretary Eric Carlisle and Past President Jason Tonelli were elected, along with Directors Roger Baker, Poul Bech, Dan Cahill, Aaron Goodis, Dana Protti, Andrew Redmont, Ian Stubbs and Paul Des Laurier (all to two year terms) other Directors elected in 2009 still have a year left on their term.  A complete list of the Officers can be found here.

After this successful AGM came to a close a number of Society members met at a local watering hole and had a bite to eat and some friendly discussion.  All in all - a good day.