Saturday, August 09, 2008

Provincial Steelhead Division required

In examining all the machinations of the politics surrounding the Skeena steelhead fishery, we have come to the conclusion that on the Provincial side they are really undergunned. Not that we want another layer of bureaucracy, but we feel the Ministry of Environment really needs a Steelhead Division.

We feel that something as important to the Province such as steelhead, especially Skeena steelhead, really requires a Department that solely focusses on steelhead. The myriad of issues surrounding them such as the commercial fishery, habitat protection, research, stock assessment and more requires more serious attention than just an additional aspect of somebodies job description. As it stands right now, the Regional Fisheries Branch staff try to work on steelhead issues in addition to all their other work. This is fine, but is quite limiting in terms of what they can do given their position in the bureaucratic hierarchy, both within the Province and in dealing with their Federal counterparts.
This Steelhead Division should have someone whose sole function is management of and advocacy for conservation/protection of steelhead. It could be a regional position or a Provincial one as British Columbia does have important steelhead runs in various locations such as Skeena, the Dean, the Thompson....Each of these very important steelhead systems has only the regional Fisheries Branch staff to look after them and this is totally inadequate in our opinion. At the very least, each Regional office ( for Regions with steelhead) should have a designated steelhead manager position solely focussed on steelhead issues and research.
Just look at the revenue the Classified Waters( now Quality Waters) in Skeena region and what it must generate for the Province each year in license fees, fees for guides, economic impact of tourists all targetting steelhead. And in return, the regional Fisheries Branch's budgets are discouragingly small. One Terrace guide calculated the local guide associations membership contributes over a million dollars to Provincial coffers in client license fees and guide license fees alone. Surely, some of this should be directed back at the source; the steelhead. Another question to ask in this regard is why does a large percentage of all Classifed Waters license fees go to the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC. The FFS stocks lakes and this basically means steelheaders are subsidizing trout fishermen.

If such a position was made within the Fisheries Branch that had sole responsibility of steelhead, the ability to focus on just one task would vastly improve the information flow, decision making abilities, research, and advocacy efforts for the Fisheries Branch. The next few years will be critical times for managing steelhead , especially in Skeena region, with the commercial fishery set for drastic change in the coming years.This is a major opportunity to do things right for such a valuable resource such as steelhead. We urge the Province not to waste this opportunity by relying on overworked and under-manned regional staff for crucial input into these changes.
Time for the government to put some of those fees they recover from steelhead fishermen directly back in to steelhead oriented activities.
If you feel the same, maybe let Environment Minister Barry Penner know at

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