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Westslope Cutthroat Conservation

Jim Fox

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Today's paper had an ad seeking input on a proposal to protect the alberta population of westslope cutthroats under the Species At Risk Act (aka SARA). If you are interested in protecting them (as in having a no-kill regulation) but ensuring a fishery, best let the Feds know. You have to be certain they won't make a flyfisher-friendly decision on their own. Try this link:





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  • 4 weeks later...



I don't have a simple answer for you. Brian Meagher, the TUC Alberta biologist, is on the committee looking at westslope cutthroats and he sent me an e-mail about it. I will cut and paste it when I get back to my home computer.


For our March 17 meeting our guest will be David Park, the Alberta Fisheries biologist who is the contact in the provincial gov't for this issue.


More details later.



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Here is the message that Brian Meagher, the Alberta provincial biologist for TUC sent out to members:


"Alberta chapter members,

Please review this and pass it on to all your chapter members or other concerned individuals!


Currently there is an ongoing process to protect the remaining native pure strains of Westslope Cutthroat Trout. This process is important as this species is at risk from invasion of non-native fish species, habitat impacts, and climatic variability. I would encourage all chapters and their members to take a little time and go through the process of completing this workbook. Take time to think about the questions as you formulate your answers. The protection of this species is very important to this provinces aquatic ecosystem and fishery. I have been involved with the westslope cutthroat recovery team and I will continue to do so, here is what has occurred so far:


· Surveys were completed in 2006 to start to assess native populations in limited areas of the province


· Crews were sent out to collect DNA in 2007 across much of the foothills area


· The recovery team has held 2 meetings involving biologist from ASRD, DFO, Parks Canada, TUC, B.C. Ministry of Environment, and independent researchers.


· The DNA is now being analysed to determine pure strains (This information will drive the recovery plan for this species)


· Public input (now in effect)"



Appended to Brian's e-mail was this message from Carl Hunt, a retired fisheries biologist living in Edson:


"I'm sure you have this message but I'd be interested in TU's take on the purpose of the West slope Cutthroat questionnaire.


I believe the SARA registry should be based on the status of all native species in Canada and species at risk should be protected as a responsibility of Canadians to ensure a diverse and healthy environment for current and future generations. Listing shouldn't be based on current or traditional 'uses' and economic values. Once listed on a scientific basis with solid recommendations for protection; our politicians can balance the social and economic costs in a transparent forum by supporting or rejecting the science and voters can make the final decision.


Albertans are very familiar with the 'workbook' process because the Alberta government has repeatedly used them to ask biased and confusing questions about a variety of environmental issues which solicits a strong response from those opposed and politicians use the results to delay or reject the protection of renewable natural resources.


I hope TU will encourage members to complete the 'workbooks' after they are cautioned to carefully read the questions or clarify their answers in the comments sections.




Further to this Carl also sent me this reply in response to my questions about listing:



"Hi Michael,


I was not happy with the DFO 'Workbook' questionnaire because I think it deals with the wrong questions about how listing would affect traditional use and economics. My Rant to TUC is pasted below. [This is the comment above - Michael]


Your concerns are valid and I guess I support whatever it takes to recover something that is as special as the native CTs. Some of the science from Dr Andrew Paul, UofC (from my memory, which isn't very reliable) suggested that the C/R hooking mortality at the angling pressure used in Jim Stelfox's 'Brooky Bashing' project would wipe out the cutthroat before it got rid of the brook trout. A number of years, like1980's, some of the literature from Yellowstone showed that CT were caught and released 10 times in a summer and the rivers still produced some nice fish but they had missing mandibles and mutilated mouths etc.


I don't know how C/R would be dealt with by SARA or if normal angling pressure would create too much hooking mortality.


I think anglers should stress the importance of strong actions to protect fish habitat as the first and most important step in saving a species.

Unfortunately the opposite is probably the choice of current politicians.

Fence all stream banks and prosecute anyone that adds sediment or other pollutants regardless of quantities. The Fed Fish Act requires that officers/biologists prove harm and that is never going to stop the cumulated impacts that destroy our fisheries.


The next priority is to increase public education so anglers understand the importance of protecting CTs. The regulations should ensure low hooking mortalities (definitely no bait, scents and I suspect small soft plastic lures). I also believe but have no proof that treble hooks are hard on the mouthparts of the smaller fish. Trebles are not swallowed but I know that with small Grayling the mandibles are often pulled off when removing trebles.


The last step should be to close waters to angling because closures just open the creeks to illegal harvest and do nothing to encourage the public to Umbridge about habitat abuse. With caribou and grizzlies the govt priority is to stop hunting, kill wolves and whitetails and anything else but never implement habitat protection that might slow down an overheated economy or piss off a multinational company.


I don't know if this helps but I figure if we get species listed and protect habitat we can always argue about angling in the future. Albertans have already lost Arctic grayling in most of the accessible rivers, bull trout have been depleted and walleye have been trashed. Current fish management has failed because of political meddling and the public need a wake-up or we won't have anything in the future.





I hope this helps. We will have David Park as a guest speaker at our March 17 meeting to talk about the listing.



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