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kush 02-04-2004 12:55 PM

Steelhead Management in BC?
Here is a letter I sent on behalf of the Kingfishers Rod and Gun Club to The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The DFO manages our salmon fisheries, as steelhead are a Pacific Salmon they are to be managed by the DFO - yet they continue to ignore their responsibility. Read the letter and if you choose, write the DFO and register your concern.

It is critical to convince them to eliminate the late chum fisheries in the Lower Fraser as they coincide with migration periods of Thompson Steelhead. DFO insists that it is a minor issue - but since I sent the letter the Provincial Fisheries Office has announced closure of the Thompson - as of Oct 1, 2004 - "until such time as sufficient fish are present". Therefore, even ONE fish killed in a chum opening - let alone 10-15% of the run is unacceptable!.

January 28,2004
Michelle Imbeau,
Communication OfficerFisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region

Having read the 2004 Salmon Forecast of January 23, 2004, I have some concerns with the lack of mention of steelhead, particularly Thompson River steelhead. Last year saw one of the worst steelhead returns in history to the Thompson, with 800 - 1000 spawners estimated. There was a threatened closure to catch and release fishing (that was not implemented due to political pressure and the late return of a handful of fish), the Kingfishers Rod and Gun Club passed a resolution not to fish the river due to their extreme concern for the fish. There is a strong likelihood that the river will be closed this year until such time as enough fish are deemed present. This has caused a major stir in the sport fishing community and the Kingfishers Rod and Gun Club wants to register its ongoing concern.

I read with dismay that steelhead do not even warrant a single line in the 2004 Salmon Forecast. Steelhead are officially a Pacific Salmon; therefore are under the auspices of the DFO, yet it appears to have little or no import to those who make fisheries management decisions. Steelhead in general and Thompson steelhead in particular are clearly threatened. The salmon forecast refers to the fact that threatened stocks like Thompson coho, Cultus Lake sockeye, Strait of Georgia and Johnston Strait sockeye to name a few, will either have steps taken to protect them or will be monitored to ensure their safety. Yet the Thompson steelhead do not receive a single word.

To further raise our concern, the forecast mentions expected strong chum returns to the Fraser. If this past year is any indicator of DFO policy, it will mean numerous commercial and Native openings for these fish of questionable economic value. These openings traditionally coincide with migration times of Thompson and other Interior Steelhead stocks.

For the DFO to “reduce” the “acceptable interception” of these from 10-20% in 2002 to 10-15% as they did in 2003 is simply not good enough to protect these stocks. If the Thompson’s steelhead numbers are so low that even a few spawners cannot be lost in a low impact catch and release fishery, then how can any responsible manager justify a removal of 10-15% of the run? To do this as a by-catch of what amounts to a “worthless” commercial fishery is absurd.

The Kingfishers Rod and Gun Club is calling for a management regime on the Lower Fraser River and West Coast Vancouver Island that takes into account the plight of Thompson River steelhead. Further, we want the DFO to live up to what we see as part of its responsibility - that is to manage Pacific Salmon stocks with steelhead as part of the picture.

Yours sincerely,

Tyler Kushnir, Vice President, Kingfisher Rod and Gun Club.

cc President of the Steelhead Society of BC
The Honourable Geoff Regan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
The Honourable Bill Barasoff, Minister of WLAP British
Rob Bison, Fisheries Biologist Kamloops WLAP

e-mail contacts are as follows:

Honourable Geoff Regan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada:


Honourable Bill Barisoff, Minisiter of Water Land and Air Protection British Columbia:

North Island 02-04-2004 01:40 PM

Great letter Tyler

I also have concern regarding our steelhead stocks. Ministry of Water Land and Air Protection have carried out steelhead enhancement projects in several rivers around B C. Including the Living Gene Bank and others. To this date the returns have been terrible. Are we/they putting enough smolts into our systems to ensure good returns? Where are these fish going? What is happening to these fish during the ocean cycle of thier lives? For me this just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks for raising the awareness. Keep up the good work! We'll see ya out there.


OC 02-04-2004 02:39 PM

Could your steelhead smolts cross paths with aqua culture pens on the trip out of the straits to open ocean?

kush 02-04-2004 02:54 PM


I'm quite certain they do, of course that is denied by the powers to be. But it is interesting how the East Coast Vancouver Island Streams have virtually no fish and the glut of fish farms is on their path to the open ocean...

There are likely a plethora of problems they face, certainly ocean conditions will be primary amongst them. We just don't know. Salmon survival rates are way up, yet steelhead survival rates are way down, what is the difference? We don't know.

Oregon survival rates for steelhead are up, so it undoubtedly has something to do with the ocean conditions that the Greater Georgia Basin steelhead face. So in the face of this uncertainty it becomes paramount that we reduce the threats that we know about; commercial interception, de-watering of rearing areas, fish farm/sea lice issues etc.

OC 02-04-2004 04:40 PM

Thanks Kush and I wish you luck in saving your steelhead.
Yes there are many problems but I find it odd that if you look at both your strait migration and our Puget Sound fish they started to get into big trouble at about the same time. That also coensides with the increase in fish farms. I'm not saying that is where the big problem is but I do know that your goverment and the goverment below you would not dare investigate such a problem. I also bet our fish & Game will say that our PS steelhead do not migrate out the Northern end of the sound. No one knows and we hope to start a tracking study in the years ahead. Like you say steelhead most other places are doing fair to great and ocean condition are good. You would think that good science would look in the fish farm direction.

North Island 02-04-2004 04:57 PM

It appears our government's [federal & provincial ] attention is focused on the commercial side of fisheries. Specifically, if the commercial fleet get their openings, and the farms are producing revenue then all is well in the BIG picture.Steelhead,which produce no revenue [debateable], are low on their list of priorities. Where is the accountability of the Steelhead programs thus far.


pruple_spey 02-05-2004 12:25 PM

If you get a reply to your letter. I woulkd be interested to see what they say.

kush 02-05-2004 01:02 PM

I got the response I pretty much expected...

Dear Mr. Kushnir,

Thank you for your e-mail, dated 28 January 2004, voicing your comments regarding Salmon forecasts.

We have forwarded your concerns to the relevant authorities within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require additional


General inquiries / Renseignements généraux

pruple_spey 02-05-2004 01:13 PM

As is standard with most regulating bodies thanks but no thanks.

sinktip 02-05-2004 01:29 PM

How about this?
Yes, I do require more information. I require a date when you will start placing the interests of a vanishing resource above those of the almighty northern dollar. I require an explantion of how you intend to assure that the profits realized in indiscriminate down-river commercial netting will be shared with the people and economy of Spence's Bridge. Finally, if it is not too much trouble, I require a short response on the reasoning behind your departments decision to sell out a species you have been charged with protecting.

:mad: :tsk_tsk: :mad:

flytyer 02-05-2004 02:16 PM


I think this would be an excellent letter in response to the drivel Tyler got from DFO.


It would be worth a try anyway.

kush 02-05-2004 02:47 PM

Thanks guys :eyecrazy: - I'm already managing to be a pain in their collective butts - what I need is some other people to do the same.

MJC 02-05-2004 04:08 PM

Hey Sinktip...
That is a great letter! I think I will print it out and stick it to the wall above my desk to offer me inspiration for when I am dealing with bureaucrats.

fisshman26 02-07-2004 11:50 PM

I will also be sending a letter on behalf of the west kootenay flyfishing club and will encourage as many members as possible to do the same.
Strength in numbers!

juro 02-08-2004 08:46 AM

A key point in Tyler's argument is the value of a chum salmon verses a Thompson steelhead. All who have fished the T should feel obligated to express the importance of this fishery and the dollars they spend in BC to get there in order to reinforce the value of the steelhead to the province.

I am preparing such a statement and will be contacting eveyone I know who has traveled to fish the T to do the same.

Tyler -

Who is the right person to send such a statement to... would it be Michelle Imbeau or

Geoff Regan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Bill Barasoff, Minister of WLAP British

Thanks Tyler!

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