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!
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.
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: Min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Honourable Bill Barisoff, Minisiter of Water Land and Air Protection British Columbia: firstname.lastname@example.org