World News

Fisheries official denies coverup allegations over research into endangered B.C. steelhead

A red-tinged fish peeks out of a net on the ocean.

A senior official of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has denied allegations that the federal government covered up scientific findings on a unique kind of rainbow trout in B.C. in an attempt to justify continuing commercial fishing that endangers the species.

The allegations come in part from B.C. Wildlife Federation executive director Jesse Zeman, who said the federal government still won’t make public peer-reviewed scientific research that concludes that fisheries should be restricted in order to save steelhead in the Thompson and Chilcotin rivers from extinction.

The species, a member of the salmon family, migrates to the ocean for much of its life but hatches and spawns in the two rivers.

Zoologists and conservation groups in B.C. have been warning of its perilous state for years, and an annual update on the species last month by B.C.’s Ministry of Forests warned that its numbers are now at historic lows, with preliminary estimates that only 104 Thompson River steelhead and 19 Chilcotin River steelhead are spawning this year.

Speaking on CBC’s Daybreak Kamloops on Friday, Andrew Thomson, the DFO’s Vancouver-based regional director for the Pacific, refuted claims that an assessment on the recovery potential of the species has yet to be published, and that a science advisory report was edited by DFO officials without scientists’ knowledge.

“Certainly, the [DFO] is very committed to sharing information as part of our scientific process,” Thomson said.

Recovery potential assessment 

Zeman argues the primary threat to the steelhead comes from bycatch and salmon net fishing in the Johnstone Strait and Salish Sea off B.C.’s South Coast, and the Lower Fraser River, and therefore the DFO should ban these practices by designating them as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act.

In January 2018, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), a group of independent advisers to the federal government, called for the Interior Fraser steelhead as to be listed as endangered. 

B.C. conservation groups say the primary threat to Interior Fraser steelhead comes from bycatch and salmon net fishing in Johnstone Strait, the Salish Sea and the Lower Fraser River. (Chris Furlong/Getty Images)

This triggered the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) to invite scientists to conduct a peer-reviewed recovery potential assessment on the species, and to publish a science advisory report based on the assessment in the same year for DFO to…

Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at CBC | Top Stories News…