Province of B.C. closes sport fishery in attempt to aid steelhead recovery

Kamloops This Week

In response to the continued concern over low steelhead trout returns, the B.C. government has shut down all sport fishing on the Thompson River below Kamloops Lake, along with sections of the Fraser River.

The closure, which will be in effect from Oct. 1 to May 3 of next year, comes after record-low steelhead returns on the Thompson and Chilcotin rivers.

On the Fraser, fishing will be closed from the Highway 99 bridge at Lillooet downstream to BC Hydro’s tail race outflow channel and from the confluence with the Thompson River to the CNR bridge.

Last fall, fewer than 200 Thompson steelhead returned and only 50 Chilcotin steelhead made the trip back up the river.

In response, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (an advisory body to the government) assessed the Thompson River and Chilcotin steelhead as endangered and recommended in February an emergency order to place the fish on the endangered list under the federally controlled Species at Risk Act.

So far, the federal government has not taken that action, despite a petition to do so being presented to in the House of Commons earlier this year in May.

The province said that even though catch-and-release fishing accounts for a “very small percentage” of annual steelhead mortality, it is moving ahead with the closure to support the committee’s recommendations.

In March, the Fraser Basin Council’s Mike Simpson told KTW that steelhead were the fish that has “fallen between the cracks,” with issues such as commercial bycatch and climate change affecting fish populations.

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