In the April-May 2018 issue of Fly Fisherman (on sale now) we reported that Thompson River steelhead are on the verge of extinction, with fewer than 200 fish expected in the final tally of fish returning to spawn in late 2017. The cause is legal but indiscriminate gill netting in the Fraser River by First Nations and commercial fishermen. We also reported that the only way to save Thompson River steelhead may be a listing of the fish under Canada's Species At Risk Act (SARA). A SARA listing could outlaw all activities endangering Thompson steelhead.
Update: Since that story went to press, The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) completed its emergency assessment of Thompson River and Chilcotin River steelhead and has determined both populations are at imminent risk of extinction. Both were assessed by COSEWIC as Endangered and recommended for an emergency listing order under SARA.
Only 177 adult steelhead returned to the Thompson in 2017 and only 58 fish returned to the Chilcotin. Both are tributaries of the Fraser river and are impacted by downstream gillnetting. In both cases, the numbers represent the lowest ever recorded.
The new COSEWIC assessments have been forwarded to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, The Honourable Catherine McKenna, who will make recommendations for listing and protecting the two species.
For more information, see the April-May 2018 issue of Fly Fisherman or newswire.ca