Thompson and Chilcotin Steelhead COSEWIC assessed: SARA listing recommended

 VANCOUVERFeb. 13, 2018 /CNW/ - Following a seldom-used fast-track process, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) concluded today that two populations of sea-going Steelhead Trout breeding in the Thompson and Chilcotin river systems in British Columbia are at imminent risk of extinction. Both populations were assessed as Endangered and COSEWIC recommended an emergency listing order under the federal Species at Risk Act. A mere 177 fish returned from the sea to the Thompson River in late fall 2017, and only 58 returned to the Chilcotin River. This is an all-time low since records began in 1978, and the endpoints of downward trends that started over a decade ago. The main threats include inadvertent bycatch of adults by net fisheries targeting Pacific salmon and poor ocean conditions. Steelhead Trout are a form of Rainbow Trout that are born in fresh water, but that migrate to the ocean as juveniles, much like salmon. Also like salmon, they return as adults to their natal streams to breed. Steelhead Trout are typically much larger than their freshwater Rainbow Trout counterparts, and contribute to highly valued catch-and-release sport fisheries.

Both COSEWIC and the public have been concerned for some time about the Steelhead Trout that breed in the British Columbia Interior. Two recently submitted citizens' applications to COSEWIC precipitated the emergency assessment. COSEWIC only rarely decides that the gravity of a situation necessitates a fast-track process. The last time was in early 2012, when the committee recommended that three bat species decimated by fungal disease in Eastern Canada should be listed as Endangered under an emergency order.  The bats eventually received legal protection in late 2014.

The new COSEWIC assessments have been forwarded to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, The Honourable Catherine McKenna, who  will now make a decision on the recommendations for Emergency Listings of the two wildlife species. The record small numbers of overwintering BC Interior Steelhead Trout begin to lay their eggs later this spring. More here: