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SOURCE: Vancouver Sun

DATE: December 3, 2019

SNIP: Steelhead runs in the largest tributaries of the Fraser are on the brink of extinction. The spawning population in the Thompson watershed is estimated to be 86 fish, according to a recent update from the ministry of forests, lands and natural resources. The Chilcotin watershed has only 39 steelhead likely to spawn.

Non-selective net fishing for salmon is undercutting conservation and habitat restoration efforts intended to save the Fraser River steelhead from blinking out of existence, said Mark Angelo, chairman of the 100,000-member ORC.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has employed “rolling closures” of commercial and First Nations salmon fisheries that suspend fishing in areas where most of the steelhead pass as they leave the Pacific Ocean and enter the Fraser River.

Land-clearing is leading to habitat destruction in the heart of the lower Fraser River for about 30 other species of fish.

Clear-cutting for agriculture and development are damaging rearing areas for chinook and other species between Mission and Hope and on mid-river lands such as Herrling, Carey and Strawberry islands.

Seven southern B.C. chinook stocks are considered endangered, four threatened, one is of special concern and one is not at risk, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

The Big Bar landslide dramatically curtailed access to the upper reaches of the Fraser watershed for struggling runs of chinook and sockeye salmon this year.

The slide created a five-metre waterfall that forced DFO to trap and transport potential spawners below the debris and release them into the river above the slide.

“There was a valiant and heroic effort move fish past the slide,” said Angelo. “The unfortunate reality is that most fish didn’t make it through and those that did were already exhausted.”

“These things taken together make the Fraser a critically endangered river, the most critically endangered in B.C. and probably all of Canada,” Angelo said.