B.C. river report highlights perilous state of steelhead stock
Thompson, Chilcotin and Fraser top Outdoor Recreation Council's 2018 endangered rivers list
The federal government should include steelhead trout in Canada's Species at Risk Act, says a B.C. outdoor advocacy group, following a recent survey of the province's rivers.
The Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C. releases its endangered rivers list every two years, based on nominations from recreation and conservation groups, resource managers and the general public.
This year, low steelhead stocks were noted in a number of B.C. waterways, including the Thompson, the Chilcotin and the Fraser.
Mark Angelo, chair of rivers with the Outdoor Recreation Council, said Vancouver Island's Gold River has also seen a marked decline in steelhead stocks in recent years.
"I think back to the '80s and '90s when it was such an incredibly productive river," Angelo said. "The catch rate ... on the Gold was among the highest in British Columbia in terms of steelhead."
"But then you fast-forward to March of 2017 when an extensive survey over close to 10 kilometres of river found only one winter steelhead," he continued.
"Steelhead stocks there have fallen off a cliff."
Lack of hard data
Angelo says the stock dropoffs in the Gold River could be due to any number of factors, including habitat loss, flooding, climate change or undetected contamination.
The uncertainty of the cause, he said, points to another problem: a lack of concrete data about B.C.'s rivers.
"The thing is, we don't know for sure," he said. "When I look at the lack of data we have on the Gold and elsewhere, that's an unfortunate reality that river managers have to live with, and I think that's something we have to address."
Angelo said additional funding from both the province and the federal government is needed to close the knowledge gap.
"Funding is a very serious issue now, but our hope is that government will try and address that, whether it's the province on its own, or a partnership with the federal government," he said.
In addition to low steelhead stocks, the report also expresses concern about habitat destruction in the area between Hope and Mission, which it calls "the heart of the Fraser River."
Angelo says the region is some of the most important salmon and sturgeon habitat in the country.