Rob Brown’s Aug. 8, 2012 column entitled “Abundance” concerning the abundance or lack of abundance of Skeena system steelhead is of interest to the B.C. Wildlife Federation (BCWF) whose primary objective is conservation.
Mr. Brown makes some very good points about the historic numbers of Skeena steelhead and a notable lack of abundance compared to other systems to the south as well as run sizes of Skeena salmon (pink, sockeye and coho).
It is questionable to include pinks and chums in the comparisons since they have completely different life history strategies but regardless, there is no question that steelhead are less productive compared to their salmon cousins.
We certainly agree with Mr. Brown on the impacts of decades of indiscriminate net fisheries.
Where there is disagreement is over the privilege to harvest a steelhead when there is a harvestable surplus over and above conservation requirements and the needs of First Nations have been met.
The BCWF believes when conservation objectives are being met, steelhead populations return to abundance (classified as being in the routine management zone) and there should be opportunities for resident anglers to participate in a harvest of steelhead.
The lack of these opportunities is driven by the lack of investment to identify the locations, times and opportunities for retention fisheries by the province.
Mr. Brown’s point is that BCWF members such as Kitimat resident Mike Langegger, Regional Director of the BCWF, should not be allowed to harvest steelhead because of their low numbers.
But what is at the heart of this issue is the divisive argument between users: catch and release or catch and harvest.
This is a choice issue not a conservation issue as the data suggest a harvestable surplus is available for some of the stronger Skeena steelhead stocks.
The conservation community interested in fish and fish habitat is small but often very passionate bunch and clearly Mr. Brown is in this group.
However, it is a sad and unfortunate reality that some conservationists also seem to enjoy pitting one interest group against another.
B.C. Wildlife Federation,