Heavy sedimentation and debris from last summer’s fires barricaded the Bonaparte River fishway, the pathway to steelhead spawning grounds. An assessment of two populations has confirmed a 2018 emergency survey that found the fish are at risk of extinction. (Black Press file photo)

Heavy sedimentation and debris from last summer’s fires barricaded the Bonaparte River fishway, the pathway to steelhead spawning grounds. An assessment of two populations has confirmed a 2018 emergency survey that found the fish are at risk of extinction. (Black Press file photo)

Investigation confirms dire situation of B.C. steelhead

Endangered species report will again go to Ottawa for SARA consideration

A thorough risk assessment of Chilcotin and Thompson steelhead trout has confirmed the results of a previous survey declaring the fish at risk of extinction. The latest findings mean the fish will again be considered for listing under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

Last year the the federal government declined to list the steelhead after the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) submitted the findings of a rare emergency assessment. The government said protection under SARA would be prohibition based and therefore not lead to timely, proactive steps to increase the species’ productivity.

In their 2020 Species Assessments released in November, COSEWIC again looked at the Interior Fraser steelhead, but this time under its regular process with heightened scrutiny and peer-reviewed conclusions. Although the findings are the same as 2018 — “endangered” — standard procedure will push the file back to the government for SARA consideration.

READ MORE: Federal government will not list Steelhead under Species at Risk Act

“The conclusion really does not change anything about the status of these fish. It confirms their status as endangered,” COSEWIC chair John Reynolds said. “But I honestly think we could lose both of these populations within a couple of steelhead generations unless something changes.”

In lieu of a SARA listing, in July last year the federal and provincial governments announced a Joint Action Plan to reduce fishing-related mortality, remove significant barriers to migration and reduce ongoing habitat destruction. Additional measures are being taken over the longer term to remediate degraded habitat.

Options are also being explored to address the causes of natural mortality, such as seal predation, and to augment wild populations with hatchery fish.

A SARA listing would make it illegal to kill, harm, harass, or capture steelhead, triggering new protections and disrupting or shutting down legal salmon fisheries for First Nations and the commercial sector.

To limit bycatch of the endangered fish, the province wants the federal government to implement 77 days of closures on salmon fisheries, protecting 95 per cent of steelhead during their 82-day run time.

Last season DFO issued closures for just 27 days, which the province said DFO plans to do again next year.

“These measures fall short of the level of protection needed to give the species a chance to recover,” an e-mail from the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource operations and Rural Development reads.

Bob Hooton, a retired biologist and fisheries section head for the B.C. ministry of environment, now a writer and steelhead advocate, said the crisis will continue as fisheries are allowed to remain open while steelhead are migrating.

“Down tools. There’s no way around it,” he said. “If there’s one thing that’s completely under our control, it’s managing the harvest. It’s the most immediate and most effective thing you can do for any fishery.”

In the next few weeks the province plans to unveil a new online platform to improve public access to the current management information, science fact sheets and progress updates on steelhead populations.

COSEWIC will submit its full report to the federal government around the fall of 2021. The Governor in Council will consider listing the steelhead under SARA based on the findings and consultations with Indigenous communities, stakeholders and organizations, including wildlife management boards. The economic and social implications of the listing will also be considered.

– With files from Barbara Roden

READ MORE: Permanent fishway approved for Big Bar landslide site



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

DFOFisheries and Oceans Canada

Just Posted

A worker at Wee Geordies Liquor Store held at knifepoint on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. A female entered the store and grabbed a bottle of liquor and produced a knife and demanded money. She was not located. (Wee Geordies video surveillance screenshot)
VIDEO: Two stores robbed on the same day in Kitimat

The first incident was at 5:45 a.m. and the second incident occurred 3:30 p.m.

Do Your Part Recycling Co is celebrating 15 years of its operation in Terrace this May. (Binny Paul/Terrace Standard)
How a homegrown Terrace business became a vital cog in the regional recycling initiative

Do Your Part Recycling owner Kasey Lewis on how they started 15 years ago

Construction continues on Coast Mountain College’s student residence on May 12, 2021. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
VIDEO: Work continues on major projects at Coast Mountain College

Price tag of $35 million set for housing, substantial renovations

Terrace city council gave first and second reading to zoning amendment bylaws for the proposed transload facility located next to Keith Ave. (Image courtesy Hatha Callis, Progressive Ventures Group)
Next inland port public hearings set for June

Terrace council gave first and second reading to establish new zone, rezoning application

Skeena Valley Farmers Market will host Northern Health’s COVID-19 vaccination booth on May 15. ( Skeena Valley Farmers Market/Facebook)
Northern Health to set up COVID-19 vaccine booth at Skeena Valley Farmers Market

The booth will be set up on the south side of the market towards Park Ave. on May 15

Conservation Service Officer Kyle Bueckert holds a gold eagle that was revived from acute rodent poisoning Monday, May 12. Photo: Submitted
‘Obviously, he’s a fighter’: Golden eagle, recovered from poisoning, back in Kootenay wild

CSO Kyle Bueckert released the eagle into the wild Thursday, May 13

Capt. Jenn Casey died in a crash just outside of Kamloops, B.C., on May 17, 2020. (CF Snowbirds)
Snowbirds to honour Capt. Casey, who died in B.C. crash, in 2021 tour

Tour will kick off in Ontario in June before heading west

A pedestrian wearing a mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 is bundled up for the cold weather as snow falls in downtown Vancouver on Saturday, February 13, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Snow possible in mountain passes as cold front hits southern B.C.

Much of B.C.’s southern interior will see temperatures plunge from highs of 30 C reached over the weekend

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Most Read