Steelhead stocks dwindle

Several fishing groups are raising the alarm over dwindling B.C. steelhead stocks.

Four organizations who represent thousands of anglers in the province say less than 200 steelhead spawners are expected to return to the Thompson River in 2018, a drastic reduction from the estimated 4,000 spawners seen in 1985.

In 2016, the run numbered just over 400 fish. 

Because of the 95 per cent reduction, Interior Fraser steelhead are classified as an “extreme conservation concern.”

“Thompson River steelhead used to provide one of the most famous sport fisheries on the planet,” said Brian Braidwood, president of the Steelhead Society of BC. “If we don’t take strong action over the next couple of years, we will lose it forever.”

In a recent statement, the BC Federation of Fly Fishers, BC Federation of Drift Fishers, Steelhead Society of BC, and the BC Wildlife Federation have called on the provincial and federal governments to reduce fisheries that are impacting steelhead. 

While the groups say changing ocean conditions due to climate change and habitat degradation are largely to blame for the reduction in stocks, fishing can be more easily controlled.

“Fishing is the one factor the governments have immediate control over,” said Rod Clapton, president of the BC Federation of Drift Fishers. “If you want to save a fish population that is at the brink of extinction, you shut down the fisheries that are harming them. It’s basic common sense.”

The groups are also advocating that $7.5 million of provincial funding be put aside for an Interior Fraser steelhead four-year action plan, to address steelhead stock recovery. 

"The time for discussions and studies is over, the time for action is now, and you need to step up and do your jobs in protecting this national treasure,” said Bob Hooton, a representative of the BC Federation of Fly Fishers.

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