Thompson Steelhead Working Group
COSEWIC CONCLUDES STEELHEAD AT RISK OF EXTINCTION: On February 13, 2018 the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has concluded that two populations of sea‐going Steelhead Trout breeding in the Thompson and Chilcotin river systems in British Columbia are at imminent risk of extinction. Both populations were assessed as Endangered, and COSEWIC has recommended an emergency listing order under the federal Species at Risk Act.: see 2018 COSEWIC Listing.
Photo: Thompson Steelhead — catch & release fishery
About the Working Group
The Thompson Steelhead Working Group is a multi-governmental collaborative initiative formed in 2014 to bring together representatives of the Nlaka’pamux and Secwepemc First Nations, the Province of BC and the Government of Canada (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) to develop a recovery and management plan for Thompson Steelhead.
The Thompson Steelhead Working Group is now:
The five steps associated with the planning framework are to:
Thompson Steelhead Population Trends
Although the abundance of Thompson Steelhead varies year to year, populations have declined overall since the 1990s. In 2015 numbers were low, with an estimated 440 fish returning to spawn. These returns were considerably less than the pre-season forecast of 1,300 spawners and in-season forecast of 850 spawners. The numbers have continued to fall. In 2016, there was an estimated 380 fish returning to spawn and in 2017 an estimated 290. In 2017, the spawning population forecast for the Thompson watershed is 177 and the current spawning population forecast for the Chilcotin watershed is 58.
Thompson Steelhead pre-fishery abundance is shown in red above; spawner abundance is shown in blue: 1984-2016.
On February 13, 2018 the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) concluded that two populations of sea‐going Steelhead Trout breeding in BC's Thompson and Chilcotin river systems (Oncorhynchus mykiss, TRS and CRS respectively) are at imminent risk of extinction.
Both populations were assessed as Endangered, and COSEWIC recommended an emergency listing order under the federal Species at Risk Act. A mere 177 fish returned from the sea to the Thompson River in late fall 2017, and only 58 returned to the Chilcotin River. This is an all‐time low since records began in 1978, and the endpoints of downward trends that started over a decade ago. The main threats include inadvertent bycatch of adults by net fisheries targeting Pacific salmon and poor ocean conditions.C
COSEWIC has asked Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change to issue emergency listings of these populations as Endangered.
Steelhead Management Initiative
The Nkala’pamux and Secwepemc First Nations are working to protect and restore the Thompson Steelhead through habitat enhancements and management agreements between the three orders of government to ensure the sustainable abundance of Steelhead for the future.
The Province of BC is also taking steps most notably through the Provincial Framework for Steelhead Management and provincial designations aimed at protecting key habitat.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada leads the annual development of the Southern BC Integrated Fisheries Management Plan.
The working group plans to coordinate efforts to support Steelhead within the Thompson region.
Learn more about:
The Fraser Basin Council serves as secretariat for the working group. You can reach the working group at:
Thompson Steelhead Working Group
Status of Steelhead: Fall Update
On November 23 the BC Fish & Wildlife Branch reported the most recent abundance estimates for Thompson and Chilcotin Steelhead, prior to fishing mortalities, as 294. Thompson Steelhead are in a state of extreme conservation concern.
The Branch notes 20% of these fish are expected to be lost from fishing mortality effects in the fall of 2017. The current spawning population forecast for the Thompson watershed is 177 and the current spawning population forecast for the Chilcotin watershed is 58.
Read the November 23 report.
For previous status updates, see Resources.
Meetings with Forest Industry Reps
With financial support from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), the Thompson Steelhead Working Group held meetings with West Fraser, BC Timber Sales and Stuwix Joint Venture, which conduct forestry operations in the Nicola, Bonaparte and Deadman watersheds.
The meetings provided an opportunity to share First Nations values and the current status of Thompson Steelhead, discuss existing forest management commitments and identify modified forest management practices that could help reverse the decline of Thompson steelhead.
A funding application was submitted in October 2017 for a three-year funded project, with the forest industry as partners, to monitor water temperatures and identify linkages with enhanced retention during logging.
A project with financial support from:
A synopsis of the discussion at the Thompson Steelhead Assembly is available: see Thompson Steelhead Assembly | December 2, 2016.
Thompson River Steelhead are in decline, and action is needed. In 2016 the multi-governmental Thompson Steelhead Working Group released a draft Thompson Steelhead Recovery and Management Plan for public comment through an online survey and for discussion across multiple sectors.
In December over 80 people from First Nations, provincial, federal and local governments, sport fishing organizations, the commercial fishing sector, small business interests in Spence’s Bridge, and the agriculture, mining and forestry sectors participated in a one-day meeting to discuss the declining populations of Thompson Steelhead, share perspectives and look at opportunities for improvement under the proposed Thompson Steelhead Recovery and Management Plan.
Working Group Members