Backgrounder: The Steelhead Action Plan
The Steelhead Action Plan is the product of significant and sustained collaboration between the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia. The comprehensive measures included in the Action Plan include:
- Initiate plans to improve low water levels in the rivers that are affected by drought which could include targeted release of stored water and modified irrigation practices;
- Develop a watershed restoration plan that focuses on post wild fire hydrological recovery; and,
- Remove barriers to fish migration, including rebuilding of the Bonaparte River fish-passage.
- The Province of British Columbia is implementing recreational fishing closures for all fishing across holding and spawning areas used by Thompson and Chilcotin River steelhead – i.e. within the Thompson and Chilcotin watersheds.
- The Government of Canada is putting in place rolling closures for all commercial salmon fisheries located along the migratory route and spawning areas of the Thompson and Chilcotin River Steelhead. The specific dates of these closures will range between September 6 to November 22, 2019, depending on the area:
- a closure window for commercial gillnet and seine fisheries in marine waters and in the Fraser River for 42 days, and for commercial salmon troll fisheries for 27 days;
- a closure window for recreational salmon fisheries within the Fraser River and tributaries for a period of 42 days. Recreational salmon fisheries in marine areas will not be affected; and,
- a closure window for First Nations’ Food, Social, and Ceremonial salmon fisheries occurring within the Fraser River and tributaries downstream of Thompson and Chilcotin River Steelhead spawning areas for 27 days. Food, Social and Ceremonial salmon fisheries in marine areas will not be affected.
- The rolling closures may be subject to change due to in-season conditions as the steelhead are returning. Impacts of the recent rock slide near Lillooet, British Columbia are not yet fully known; both governments are working quickly to help salmon and steelhead migrate to their spawning grounds.
Supplementation and predation
- Develop a plan for the selective use of hatchery production to help sustain wild populations; and,
- Conduct further work on the potential impacts of predation by marine mammals, such as seals and sea lions.
In 2017 the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) recommended an Emergency listing of Thompson and Chilcotin Steelhead populations as endangered under the Species at Risk Act. The Government of Canada assessed this request and has determined that an emergency listing would not produce the best ecological, social and economic outcomes relative to a comprehensive, long-term collaborative action plan with British Columbia.
Acting unilaterally to list these Steelhead Trout populations as endangered would not enable the Government of Canada to address key issues relating to land management, agricultural practises and water usage, for example, as these all fall within provincial jurisdiction. Further, an emergency listing would necessitate very broad restrictions and fisheries closures along the Fraser River that would have highly significant impacts on Indigenous communities and on recreational and commercial salmon fisheries.
Ecological outcomes for steelhead that will be produced through the comprehensive Action Plan will, in the estimation of the Government of Canada, be significantly stronger than could be achieved through an emergency listing. Implementation of the Action Plan will also ensure that Indigenous communities and other stakeholders who depend upon Fraser River salmon will continue to have reasonable access.
Measures announced today build on the Government of Canada’s Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk. Under the fund, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is investing $5.7 million over the next four years in four projects that will benefit Pacific salmon and these Steelhead by restoring habitat in the Thompson and Chilcotin Rivers. Additionally, on July 5th, the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia announced the approval in principal of twenty-three project proposals under the British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, and include work that would be of benefit to interior Fraser River salmon and steelhead stocks.
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