BC Liberal MLAs wrap up tour focused on steelhead conservation

MERRITT (September 19, 2019) – Members of the BC Liberal Steelhead Caucus have been travelling southwestern B.C. since Monday morning, visiting hatcheries and fisheries restoration projects and meeting with experts and First Nations about serious conservation concerns regarding steelhead populations, which are now near extinction.

“The tour was a great success and an excellent opportunity for our caucus to learn more about the efforts currently underway, as well as those that are still needed, to protect this vital species,” says Fraser-Nicola MLA and Steelhead Caucus Co-Chair Jackie Tegart.

Steelhead are closely related to Pacific salmon and can be found in many river systems throughout B.C. However, in recent years over half of British Columbia’s steelhead stocks have been listed as endangered or as a conservation concern—largely due to bycatch mortality and habitat destruction and degradation.

“If the NDP government continues to do nothing about the major challenges facing steelhead, whole populations in the Fraser River watershed will soon go extinct,” continues Tegart. “The emergency management plan that the NDP government released late this spring fails to take the immediate action required to save Interior Fraser steelhead. Members of our caucus wanted to see first hand the conservation efforts that are currently underway and explore what specific measures need to be immediately implemented.”

This issue goes beyond steelhead—it’s about stewardship, partnership, and governments taking action together. Many experts sounded the alarm over the need for more hatchery resources, yet due to enormous amounts of red tape between provincial and federal jurisdictions, it has been nearly impossible to break through the silos and get real action on this file.

“The problems facing the B.C. steelhead population are not simply limited to overfishing,” concludes West Vancouver-Capilano MLA and Steelhead Caucus Co-Chair Ralph Sultan. “The problem also involves habitat destruction, shrinking water supply, and climate change. Steelhead are a provincial, not federal responsibility. If the provincial government continues to sit on its hands, steelhead will surely travel from being merely threatened to entirely extinct. It is time for John Horgan and the NDP government to take decisive action, working with all stakeholders, anglers, First Nations, professional guides and conservationists to restore the steelhead population in British Columbia.”

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