14 Feb Concerned groups calling on Ministry to take immediate action on Kootenay Lake Fishery; meeting scheduled for Feb 23 in Balfour
Locals outdoors clubs, including the British Columbia Wildlife Federation (BCWF) and the West Arm Outdoors Club (WAOC), are demanding urgent action by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) as Kootenay Lake kokanee stocks continue to dwindle.
The two groups together with the Balfour and District Business and Historical Association, are hosting a meeting on (Monday) February 23 at the Balfour Hall.
“We believe the Ministry is not reacting adequately to the seriousness of the problem given the long lasting impact the fishery decline will have on recreational fishing, tourism, real estate and the local economy,” Harvey Andrusak, a former Fisheries Manager with regional Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks and a BCWF Director who is intimately familiar with the lake said in media release.
“Kootenay Lake was world renowned for its ability to produce large sized rainbow trout and local residents, tourists and non-resident anglers have long enjoyed productive trout fishing. Action is required now for the lake to recover this reputation.”
WAOC President and BCWF (West Kootenay) Representative Gord Grunerud concurs.
“Fisheries managers must take proactive and comprehensive management actions to reduce the extent and duration of this crisis. So far only minor changes to the fishing regulations have been instituted that will have little effect on kokanee productivity and the recovery of the fishery.
“The current approach is ineffective and the public needs to be aware of the implications. We expect recovery of the kokanee population will take at least a decade and even longer for the trout without immediate, proactive management.”
The organizations are extremely concerned with the current status of fishing on Kootenay Lake.
Anglers are experiencing the worst fishing conditions in more than 50 years. A near total collapse of the main lake kokanee population has resulted in a dramatic decline in the size and number of Gerrard rainbow trout and bull trout populations.
Both of these species and others such as threatened sturgeon and burbot rely on kokanee as their primary food source.
In response to the successful fertilization program the predator numbers have significantly increased, resulting in an unprecedented reduction in kokanee numbers since 1967.
The Meadow Creek system and spawning channel usually supports a range of half a million to a million kokanee spawners that produce ample numbers of kokanee to sustain an abundance of rainbow and bull trout.
However, in the last three years Meadow Creek spawners have declined to less than 200,000 annually. In fall 2014, the numbers were a mere 60,000.
Both Meadow Creek and Lardeau River kokanee numbers are being reduced by predation and possibly other factors.
Today the trout are showing the effects of this reduced food supply; they are small, skinny and in poor condition.
The BCWF is calling upon the government to conduct an independent review to determine how fisheries managers could have averted this current crisis (learn from the event) and what proactive measures can be undertaken to accelerate the recovery (act to improve the future).
This is essential rather than simply waiting and hoping, potentially for decades, for the recovery of what was formerly the province’s best inland large lake fishery.
Local anglers recognise the problem but now politicians, small businesses and non-anglers support is required.
The 46,000 members of the BCWF care about this unique ecosystem, the fish community it supports and the economic, social and community benefits the Kootenay Lake Fishery provides.
Concerned residents should write to Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson and Regional Executive Director Paul Rasmussen demanding they undertake a review to develop and implement a comprehensive fisheries restoration plan for Kootenay Lake.
The recent decline in fish stocks forced the popluar Family Day Fishing Derby to cancel its 2015 event.