We’ve got some very sad news coming out of the Skeena River system in British Columbia. As of the 12th of October, the entire river system has closed due to “dismal” steelhead returns this year.
According to the Canadian Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development, on August 31st, 2021:
“An estimated 5,280 adults have entered the Skeena watershed, 23% of the historical average to date. This is estimated at the Tyee Test Fishery and is below the extreme conservation concern threshold for this species (~8000 spawners). Extreme low abundance is corroborated by in-season observations at the upper Sustut River fish counting fence and captures at the Bulkley River canyon at Witset.”
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From the Wild Steelhead Coalition:
“Fishery managers in British Columbia finally closed the Skeena River System to steelhead angling on October 12 due to dismal fish returns. Test Fishery results throughout the season have consistently been the worst in nearly seven decades of record-keeping, triggering calls from conservationists and concerned anglers to close fishing to protect the few steelheads that managed to return. Managers opted to keep the season open until now.
From the announcement: “To this date, the 2021 steelhead abundance estimate ranks as the lowest year out of 66 years of operation. The Pacific Stock Assessment Review Committee (PSARC) vetted threshold of 35K has been met in 15 of the past 66 years (22%) while the PSARC vetted minimum escapement target of 23K has been met in 30 of the past 67 years (44%). Neither threshold was met in 2020. Under the guidelines identified in the Provincial Framework for Steelhead Management in BC, the 2021 summer steelhead run currently sits in the Extreme Conservation Concern Zone.”