Drought conditions close fisheries

Anglers will have to reel in their rods on the Middle Shuswap River.

Anglers will have to reel in their rods on the Middle Shuswap River.

Following on the heels of a federal Fisheries and Oceans Canada ban on  salmon fisheries, the province has suspended angling from July 30 through to Sept. 30.

The area affected is the Middle Shuswap River, downstream of Shuswap Falls to Mabel Lake.

“The closure has been put in place to protect fish stocks at a time when they are vulnerable due to high water temperatures and low flows,”  notes a July 29 media release from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

“Trout may also congregate in refuge pools at these times, making them more vulnerable to angling pressures.”

A graph on the BC River Forecast Centre website shows the streamflow on the Shuswap River near Enderby on July 22 was 45 cubic metres per second – the lowest in records that date back to 1911.

River Centre hydrologist Tobi Gardner says the river is very low for this time of year and  is included in a low streamflow advisory announced last week.

The land is also extremely dry and in a drought level 4 – the driest level.

A 2010 BC Drought Response Plan describes level 4 as being “extremely dry with water supply insufficient to meet socio-economic and ecosystem needs,” and calls for maximum reduction in water use.

“Without a fair bit of rain, we don’t see conditions improving anytime soon,” says Gardner.

B.C. government fisheries biologists are monitoring approximately 40 other key angling streams throughout the province and, if conditions warrant, additional closures are possible.

On the Coast, early summer sockeye stocks are slowly entering the lower Fraser River in low numbers, says Stu Cartwright, acting area director of Fisheries and Oceans for the B.C. Interior.

There is still a delay of two to four days compared to other years.

“It looks like the samples are very low,” says Cartwright.  “On Sunday (July 16), 38 sockeye were caught in a gill net test fishery and out of 38 fish, 42 per cent (14) were early summers and 55 per cent were summers.”

Cartwright says the water temperature upstream of Hope was 18.4C on Monday, well above the annual average of 17.9C, and  temperatures possibly as high as 19.9C are predicted by Sunday.

“A half a degree is fairly significant, particularly when approaching the 20 degree mark,” says Cartwright.

“To a fish, it is quite a difference. A degree can be the difference between life and death as lower water temperatures mean lower oxygen levels.”

Cartwright meanwhile, says officials are closely monitoring conditions in the Southern Interior as the adult salmon migration is already underway and there are always juveniles in the system.


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