Technology Pivot Needed to Save Thompson Steelhead, SSBC Warns



Dear Steelhead Society of BC members, concerned anglers and conservationists

Many of you on social media have seen October 2018 photos of Thompson steelhead dead and discarded on a Fraser River beach with dozens of other salmonids. These disturbing images come just as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is embarking on a Species At Risk Act review for the Interior summer run steelhead of the Fraser River system.

The BC fish and wildlife branch reported in late October that Fraser River late-run summer steelhead stocks are “in a state of Extreme Conservation Concern.” The current spawning population forecast for the Thompson watershed is 175 fish; for the Chilcotin, 82. That’s second-lowest over more than 40 years of record-keeping.

These fish need every voice that can be raised. Please act now. It’s time to support proven, low-impact strategies that minimize impacts on struggling populations of steelhead and salmon without the loss of commercial, Indigenous and sport fisheries.

Tell our elected representatives in Victoria and Ottawa it’s time to embrace alternative, science-based fisheries management strategies that can enable the recovery of these remarkable species — and all of the salmonids that recognize the Fraser River as their home.

Please take five minutes of your time, as soon as you read this, to make an authentic contact with some or all of these people: Your local MP, MLA, federal fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, BC natural resource operations Minister Doug Donaldson, BC agriculture Minister Lana Popham via email, phone or their Facebook pages.

Please copy SSBC on your letter:

Tell them pound nets, also known as fish traps, are a centuries-old, proven technology easily adapted to meet 21st century fisheries escapement goals for species of concern. SSBC sees pound nets as the key to a vibrant, sustainable fishery for everyone, while facilitating recovery of endangered strains of steelhead, chinook, sockeye — and even southern resident killer whales. Think of the benefits this technology could deliver for native steelhead in the Dean River, the Skeena River system, the Coquihalla, the Stamp, the Nimpkish and elsewhere.

Our reasons for advocating this option are based in science. The Wild Fish Conservancy, based in Washington state, is studying the effectiveness of pound net traps in reducing by-catch mortalities in the Lower Columbia River system. They reported 94 per cent survival for steelhead, 99 per cent for chinook in a 33-day test fishing period in 2017 — and they’re working on design modifications that have the potential to raise survival to 100 per cent.

This Wild Fish Conservancy video shows it works to support conservation objectives without compromising wise use of fisheries resources. SSBC will have more to say about the Wild Fish Conservancy in the weeks ahead.

Please add your voice to this important initiative.

Yours truly

Brian Braidwood, President, Steelhead Society of British Columbia