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Fisheries Stakeholder Advisory Committee - Input needed


In Spring 2018, as part of the Fisheries Action Plan, Alberta Environment and Parks formed a new fisheries stakeholder advisory committee. This committee, supported by a diverse group of fisheries stakeholders, including Northern Lights Fly Fishers, has been set up to obtain advice and foster collaboration in the conservation and management of Alberta’s recreational fisheries and fish habitats. The commitment of the committee is to respectfully work together, in an open and transparent way, for the collective good of recreational fisheries.

The committee met for the second time on July 30, 2018. The focus of this meeting was to receive advice on the terms of reference for the committee, initiate the process for undertaking an independent review of Alberta’s fisheries management approach and share information about activities being undertaken by the Ministry and other partners to protect and restore fish habitat. During this meeting the participants:

  • Provided advice to draft the terms of reference
  • Confirmed support for the plan for the Third Party Scientific Review, facilitated by the Office of the Chief Scientist, and recognized opportunities to connect into the process. Over the next three weeks, members of the committee will be providing questions on behalf of their organizations for consideration by Alberta Environment and Parks Chief Scientist for Phase 1 of the review. Phase One will focus on the management of river and stream fisheries in the East Slopes with specific focus on angling closures and habitat enhancement. The committee was introduced to, and supportive of, the review team as selected by Chief Scientist Dr. Fred Wrona. The review team for Phase 1 will be led by Dr. Stephen Cooke and his team at Carleton University and Dr. Eduardo G. Martins at the University of Northern British Columbia.

(If there is a particular question you believe the Scientific Review team should address regarding the North Central Native Trout Recovery Program proposed by Fisheries Management and subsequently put on hold by the Minister pending the outcome of the Third Party review, please post it on the forum or email it to me at Newsletter@nlft.org by Aug 20th. All questions will be submitted to the Chief Scientist. Your name will not be used unless you specifically request otherwise.)


  • Recognized that Alberta Environment and Parks is seeking to better understand the cumulative effects of catch and release angling and other factors on fish populations, and is open to consider more than just closure of areas to recreational fishing to restore fish populations to levels that meet legislated conservation requirements and the expectations of Albertans.

The committee will meet next in late fall when an update on the progress of the independent Third-Party Scientific Review and other initiatives within the Fisheries Action Plan will be reviewed for the committee’s advice and comment.


I can also confirm that a number of projects related to habitat improvement along the east slopes have been initiated in the past few months. I hope to be able to post a list of these soon.



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  • 2 weeks later...
20th August is the deadline to submit questions from Northern Lights for the 3rd party review of the science underlying the North Central Native Trout Recovery Plan. If you have particular questions that you believe the review team should address please email them to me as soon as possible.
To date I have had two submitted:
Is significant trout recovery likely to happen if the streams aren't closed but angling is restricted to catch and release, barbless hooks?
Does research indicate that a 5year closure is sufficient for sustainable recovery?
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1) Who is a member of this diverse group of stakeholders?

2) How were they chosen?

3) From near 40 years of repairing habitat, I and others have found the repair only works when the reason for the repair is controlled. Most of these repairs are a result of poor land management by several user groups. How are the poor land management issue getting resolved? Who is paying and how is the control accomplished?

4) lots of questions.


Personally I think may just be a work around by fisheries rather than dealing with the real issues.


Damn but I'm i'm impressed.




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25 people were invited to the committee with no more than 2 from any one organization. I don't know the criteria for invitations but I believe they included an attempt to ensure a diversity of opinion and an interest in the science underlying the NCNT Recovery plan. I suspect I received an invitation primarily because my name was on the many letters written on behalf of Northern Lights to the Premier, the AEP Minister and others. The committee is chaired by ADM John Conrad. Committee membership, and I'm working from memory here, includes TUC, Cows and Fish, The BackCountry Hunters and Anglers, AFGA, Office of the Chief Scientist, AHEIA, Dickson Fish and Game, DFO, Association of Summer Villages, Outfitters and Guides Association, Retail Industry, a rep from the Stream Crossing Program, "Next Step' Group, Indigenous Relations, Fish and Wildlife Operations and F&W Policy, and Northern Lights. There's also someone who works on habitat issues, but I can't remember which department, and a facilitator. May have missed one or two. They send us a whole pile of background reading so the meetings are well run.

I can't answer your #3 yet but I heard encouraging reports on involvement with Transportation, Energy and Forestry which was the key need that we identified to the Premier in order to accomplish significant habitat work. AEP can't force the other Ministries to act and can only ask but apparently (perhaps with some encouragement from the Premier, though I don't know) there are some joint projects underway. I hope to get a list of these soon and will pass it on. Angler education is another topic on the agenda that interests me.

The science review is being conducted by some very knowledgeable and respected profs from Carleton U and UBC with extensive backgrounds in species at risk, fish habitat, catch and release mortality, fisheries management etc. Habit work is a key component of what's been discussed to date but as you know there is a cumulative effect on fish populations from many factors - climate change, invasive species, angling, siltation, entrainment, clear cutting, hanging culverts - the list goes on - that are all being considered. Not much we can do about climate change I guess except factor it into the equation! I know you have a history with fisheries management that might lead to some cynicism but I've witnessed the ADM push to get all the issues on the table, to make sure there's an open and independent evaluation of AEP's Fishery Management and the science it relies on, and to consider all users of the fisheries as well as the fish. That and a push to get this done and dusted in time for next year's regs. I'm impressed too!

After this there will be another 3rd party review of the walleye/pike/perch management that has received a lot of criticism especially from the north-east section of the province. Doubt I'll be on the committee for that one - there's someone else in Northern Lights with a Roundtable background, a jet boat and an interest in that!

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Without a strong commitment to deal with the land use issues making Angler's pay yet again for lousy land use issues will not do anything.

Unless Govt deals with the disease ( land use) rather than the symtoms ( fisheries decline ) nothing substantive will be accomplished other than closing more waters.

As the "diverse" doesn't include grazing allotment reps,, forestry company reps, oil company reps., Alberta transportation reps, I would think outcome is yet again screw anglers.

I appreciate they may look at the science of other impacts, but there must be a commitment to actually do something.

The question that should be dead Center.

Some sections of the Pembina River have been closed to angling . Show me the action plan and on ground work to reverse the closure.



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Agree completely that action on habitat is critical. Don’t know anyone who disagrees that habitat degradation over the past 40 or so years has played a major role in native trout being at risk. It's pretty much known what needs to be done with regard to habitat but as you say it’s actually doing something that matters. But from what I hear it is. For example, I hear about OHV users upset that they’ve been kicked out of a number of areas and limited to certain trails in others. Oil, gas and forestry companies like Canfor, Conoco Phillips, Association of Petroleum Producers, Alberta Pacific Forest Industries, Hammerhead Resources, Millar Western Forest Products, many more are working with AEP through the Foothills Stream Crossing Partnership (which has a rep on the committee) to fix hundreds of road crossings and culverts. Our members working on the upper Pembina project have seen evidence of it. There's more happening too and I'll try to get a list soon. There’s billions of dollars worth of work to be done though and it will take a while.


I believe the main reason why the Minister put a hold on the recovery plan was because public input showed disbelief in AEP’s contention that catch and release angling could possibly be a factor in fish population decline. Maybe they were right and AEP's biologists didn't know what they were talking about. Maybe the Fish Sustainability Index they relied on had some flaws. She decided to bring in an independent 3rd party of top scientists to advise on whether there was any truth to such and if so to what degree. The committee, with those for and against and in between, was set up in part to approve and advise the review team recommended by the Office of the Chief Scientist and to identify the key topics that it believed the team should address. There was no need for the reps you listed to provide input. The question regarding the impact of angler induced mortality and the need for closures was the key issue. Nobody knows for sure whether closures are needed on the east slopes. But I think most would agree that there is at least a possibility, given the at-risk status of native trout, that if all the habitat issues were magically fixed overnight, even a low mortality rate could have an effect on overall populations when there are very few fish left in the stream. Anglers are smart, they know where the fish are likely to be, especially when they group in over-wintering holes. The intent is to see if the science and empirical data that AEP relied on in developing the plan needs revising, to keep doing the habitat work and go from there before it’s too late anyway. Maybe I'm naive but I don't see any intent to 'screw anglers' . Why would a government want to do that anyway when the voting strength of anglers is 1 1/2 times that of seniors and anglers spend 8.3 billion annually to support their hobby? (Canadian Sportfishing Industry stats).

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If the plan is too only look at angler impacts and ignore all other issues, it is a screw the angler because he is the only guy the has proven mailable enough to fake it.

Pembina and Fall Creek closures raised no shill voices from leading to the bios. to yet again go to closures.

Angler's have had their angling oppotuniteis curtailed everywhere all the while dick poo-poo hs been done about any other fisheries impact.

I'm getting tired of packing the weight for thousands of other impacts.

About time we grew some balls and stood up to the real killers of fish.

This discussion kinda reminds me of a article I wrote years ago entitled "where do we gone after zero kill".

I realize to takes time to fix things.

But so far, I haven't seen any real attempt.

TUC's willow planting on Falls w/o the removal of the quads is just plain stupid and a waste of resources.



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If the plan is too only look at angler impacts and ignore all other issues, it is a screw the angler because he is the only guy the has proven mallable enough to fake it



I hope that in relaying the information from the committee meetings I haven't left that impression - I certainly didn't intend to. The plan is far from that. It is based on a 'cumulative effects' model and from what I hear at the meetings and from club members involved on the Pembina project there's a pile of work already underway on habitat issues. There's about 40 different oil, gas, forestry, conservation etc groups working on the Stream Crossing Partnership for example. As mentioned I hope to have at least a partial list of habitat work soon that I can post. It's the angler impact on streams other than the Pembina for which there's no consensus or plan in place yet.


I don't know all the plan re the Pembina closure that you asked about. I do know, however, that in addition to protecting the grayling and bull trout by closing sections to angling, which Northern Lights Grayling Team supported, some of the components over the last couple of years and ongoing are:

  • stream crossing remediation by a number of different companies and AEP - some locations were identified by NLFF - and this work is ongoing
  • restrictions have been put in place to limit water withdrawal
  • some stream habitat remediation
  • Forest management plans in the area and within other Athabasca Rainbow and Bull Trout Watersheds have been revised to place more emphasis on 'fisheries values' including significant reductions in clear cutting
  • Fish monitoring (backpack, float, angle) 2014,2016, 2018- planned 2019 & 2020 by AEP staff in conjunction with volunteers from NLFF
  • Some focused enforcement patrols are being conducted
  • Remote camera traps to identify potential non-compliance locations and evaluate if closure is indeed a “closure” (i.e. very limited or no poaching).

There may well be other work happening.


Hope this information is useful. If anyone is interested in volunteering with Northern Lights Grayling project please email nlft.tu@gmail.com

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I've watched the Govt perform for a long time. I hold out little hope.

Nearly 50 years of poor performance by Govt, I guess, makes me a cynic.

At the end of the day, C&R is but a bandaid.

Near 20 years ago, bull trout were protected.

And now 20 years later, Govt is finally realizing that limiting Bull Trout killing CANNOT be the only solution. Damn, but they are sharp!

Nearly 20 years ago I attended a yearly conference where the ACA's grant holders presented their findings.

One guy talked about 700 of 900 stream crossings in the Swan Hills area that were illegal which effected a migrating species - grayling. Both provincial and federal govt fisheye heads were at the session.

What did they do with the evidence - nothing!

It is about time, the people who make decisions get out on the landscape and look at the destruction.



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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks for the comment, Dennis. I wondered at the first meeting why ACA was not there.


The Advisory Committee group is not the independent 3rd party group that is reviewing the science used by AEP to develop management plans for native trout. The 3rd party is a group of 3 scientists, selected because of their extensive and recognized work with fisheries management, fish species at risk, angling related fish mortality, and habitat impacts on fisheries etc.. It is led by Dr. Steven Cooke from Carleton University. You might be interested in checking out Google Scholar to read some of his research. One of the other profs is from UBC and has done extensive fisheries and habitat work along Alberta's east slopes and elsewhere.


The Advisory Committee consists of representatives of a number of angling related organizations (see my post on Aug 17th for details) and its role is primarily to spell out the questions that the 3rd part committee has been asked to address. ACA was not included because it does not represent members of the angling public and because it operates under terms of a Memorandum of Understanding with AEP.


The ADM is there to chair the meeting and there is also a recording secretary, a facilitator and the Director from the office of the Chief Scientist who is the primary contact and liaison with the 3rd part review group In addition various AEP staff who were involved in developing the fisheries management plans are called in to answer questions from the committee depending on what is on the agenda for a particular meeting. For example, at the meeting reviewing and discussing the basis for proposing stream closures, Jessica Reilly and Mike Blackburn were there to explain the science they used to make their recommendations and field questions. There's also one or two AEP folk there to provide information and answer questions about habitat related issues. None of the AEP staff play any role whatsoever in determining the questions that the 3rd party committee will address.


There's a meeting this coming Monday (24th Sept) at which the topics and questions will be finalized and the 3rd party group will then start their review. They plan to have it done by November and well in time for a native trout recovery plan to be put in place for the 2019 regs. Questions I received from Northern Lights members have been submitted. After Monday I can share these with anyone interested.


After this a new 3rd party science review group will be established to review management plans for walleye/pike/perch that have received some criticism and the Advisory Committee will change.


Hope this helps. This process was set up to openly address every aspect of the recovery plan and every criticism that was leveled at it. Those who led the opposition to the plan are fully represented at the meetings - that's why they were invited to the Committee so that it would be as transparent as possible.

Pleased to answer any questions I can.

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The Advisory Committee today received a list of the 192 question that were generated by the Committee and that have now been passed on to the 3rd Party Science Review Team. These fall largely within four broad focal questions:


1. Is the structure of the cumulative effects model scientifically robust such that it identifies the main drivers of variance in fish populations and supports meaningful scenario modelling?


2. When identifying management actions related to closure of recreational fisheries or habitat enhancement, was the model applied in a scientifically rigorous way so that predictions were based on appropriate data including stated parameters and coefficients, and are uncertainties in predictions adequately described?


3. To what extent are the recommended management actions (e.g., closure of fisheries in select watersheds, habitat restoration measures) supported by the predictive modelling?

Specifically, what is the strength of the scientific argument(s) for why angling closures (and other management actions) were chosen as the key driver to be managed to restore fisheries compared to other drivers that can affect fish populations (e.g., reductions in the quantity and quality of fish habitat related to landscape disturbance)?



4. To what extent were stakeholders engaged in the process to evaluate potential changes in management of fisheries in East Slope Watershed?


In addition to questions from Northern Lights members that fall within these four categories the following were also submitted by members:

  • Is there any data yet from the Upper Pembina to indicate that closure is effective?
  • Is there evidence that the habitat issues affecting recovery that are outside of the mandate of AEP to fix will be sufficiently addressed by other Ministries/private sector?
  • Is there an established yardstick for measuring success that would be meaningful to anglers/non-scientists?
  • Have we identified waters that have a greater likelihood of withstanding the negative aspects of future climate change?


The science review team plans to have its report substantially completed by Oct 31st.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Does this advisory have any input ,into aeration of our provincial lakes.Reason i ask.Police outpost is ,winterkilling due to ancient,refurbed aerators & Bullshead is not even aerated.These 2 lakes & Muir were imo.Thought to be the back bone of the QSF list of lakes in AB.it sure is a terrible loss for us fishers.For  it would seem a reg.basis these fisheries winterkilling.

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Lake aeration in Alberta, including Police Outpost and Muir, is provided by the Alberta Conservation Association.  The Stakeholder Advisory Committee is a provincial government committee with a set purpose regarding the Minister's commitment to review the science underlying the native trout recovery plan first and then to review the management of walleye/pike /perch lakes.  It has no role in providing input on aeration. 

Not sure why Bullshead is not aerated but I know ACA would like to aerate more lakes than it can currently afford to do. You might want to give them a call at 1-877-969-9091 to suggest it.  I know they're open to reevaluating the list of lakes they aerate.  ACA works on a partnership basis with private companies, municipalities and outdoors-related organizations. Maybe there's a local club in your area that could offer some partial funding or volunteer help with monitoring the aerators over the winter, help with installation etc. - that might help support an argument to aerate Bullshead or another lake near Calgary.

Muir is recovering from the winterkill a couple of years ago but still not quite back to the quality it used to be.  Warmer water through the summer isn't helping! 

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