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UPDATE with Local OPINION – Fishery and Conservation Groups call for Listing of Endangered Interior Fraser River Steelhead under Canada’s Species at Risk Act

Ottawa/Victoria (Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Steelhead Society of BC, BC Wildlife Federation, BC Federation of Fly Fishers) — NOTE FVN reached out locally to Watershed Watch and Dean Werk of Great River Fishing Adventures for comment.

Fifteen fishery and conservation groups have written to Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister,Steven Guilbeault, and to Fisheries Minister, Joyce Murray,requesting they place endangered Interior Fraser River steelhead on Schedule 1 of Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA).

Interior Fraser River steelhead were the object of a scandal in 2018 when bureaucrats at Fisheries and Oceans Canada unilaterally altered the conclusions of a multi-author scientific report the federal cabinet relied on in their controversial decision not to protect Fraser River steelhead under SARA.

Steelhead are a variety of rainbow trout—a member of the salmon family—that migrate to sea and grow very large, like Pacific salmon. Interior Fraser steelhead were assessed as endangered by Canada’s Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada(COSEWIC; a federally-mandated science body) in February 2018 and recommended for listing as endangered under SARA.

To date, this has not happened,and the “integrated plans” used to manage these fish under Canada’s Fisheries Act have failed to stop their decline or initiate their recovery.The situation for these iconic fish is now the most severe conservation crisis for any wild sea-run fish in British Columbia. The groups say the situation commands immediate action to forestall the complete disappearance of Interior Fraser River Steelhead and begin their recovery.

From Dean Werk of Great River Fishing Adventures:

“We support the protection of Wild Steelhead in BC and look to the Government to implement an action plan that addresses some of the issues moving forward.

Listing Steelhead will not save these fish unless the Federal Gov follow through on their own policy. A fine example is the Nooksack Dace, where DFO had to be taken to court to ensure protection was upheld. In fact DFO had to be taken to court in this specific case.

Are we addressing the Cohen Enquiry and findings 75 recommendations? Removing Atlantic Fish farms from the Pacific Ocean which are in the direct migration routes of these Steelhead has never been done. Why? This should be the first step in change to help Steelhead and it is the responsibility of DFO – Minister Joyce Murray to fulfill the Cohen Enquiry outcome.

Until these first steps are made, it is our opinion that listing these fish will make no difference to their existence.”

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