B.C.: Steelhead numbers at yet another all-time low

steelhead fish trout

There are now fewer steelhead trout in the Thompson River system than there are letters in this sentence.

An Oct. 24 update from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations states that the current spawning population of the Thompson watershed is 86 fish. In the neighbouring Chilcotin watershed, 39 fish are expected to spawn.

For the Thompson, that figure is the lowest in 43 years of records. For the Chilcotin, in 49 years of records.

Each fish population remains in a state of extreme conservation concern.

steelhead update october 2019
This graph shows the expected abundance of spawning steelhead in the Thompson River system. The latest figure of 86 fish is the lowest across 43 years of record keeping. – Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations

The previous low point was established in March 2018, prompting the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (an advisory body to the government) to assess the populations as endangered. The body recommended an emergency order to place the fish on the endangered list under the federally controlled Species at Risk Act (SARA), which would stop fishing from recreational, commercial and First Nations sectors.

But the government’s plan released in July stopped short of any such listing, pledging instead to increase fish survival through improving freshwater habitats and conducting more science and monitoring activities.

On Thursday, five interest groups penned a letter to Premier John Horgan, pleading for action to save Interior Fraser River steelhead.

“Ocean survival, climate change and interception fisheries that use gill net are the three major factors attributed to the steep downward trend for Thompson and Chilcotin steelhead,” the letter reads, conceding that climate change and ocean survival are two factors that are beyond immediate control.

“The non-selective gill net fishery on the lower Fraser River is something that can be regulated and must be done forthwith before IFS [Interior Fraser steelhead] become extinct,” the letter continues.

The letter is signed by the BC Wildlife Federation, the British Columbia Federation of Drift Fishers, the British Columbia Federation of Fly Fishers, the Fraser Valley Angling Guides Association and the Steelhead Society of British Columbia. SOURCE


Environmentalists take Nova Scotia to court over endangered species

Lawyers will return to court Oct. 1 to complete arguments

The Canada warbler is one species a group of environmentalists are highlighting in their case against Nova Scotia’s Lands and Forestry Department. (Jeff Nadler)

Environmental groups are asking a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge to order the provincial Lands and Forestry Department to do more to protect endangered species.

The groups argue that the government is in violation of its own legislation covering species at risk because it has failed to come up with concrete plans to protect species and help them recover.

To focus their arguments, the groups ⁠— including the Federation of Nova Scotia Naturalists, Blomidon Naturalists Society and the Halifax Field Naturalists ⁠— zeroed in on six species.

Those included the Canada warbler and the eastern wood peewee, both songbirds, the black ash and ram’s head lady’s slipper, both plants, the wood turtle and the iconic mainland moose.

All have been identified by the government as species at risk.

But lawyers for the groups argued Monday that the government has failed to adhere to its own requirements to appoint advisory groups and come up with specific plans to save these species.

Bob Bancroft says the government needs to act to protect species at risk. (CBC)

In most cases, the lawyers said, it has been years since the problem was identified and nothing concrete has been done.

In addition to the environmental groups, biologist Bob Bancroft added his name to those calling on the government to act.

“I mean, obviously something’s not working here,” Bancroft said outside court.

“I think it’s basically stewardship. We don’t have a land ethic in this province. And if I own land like I do, I can desecrate it and nobody can do anything. We have laws for driving on the highway so it all works. Why don’t we have laws for how you use the land?” MORE


Make environmental damage a war crime, say scientists

Call for new Geneva convention to protect wildlife and nature reserves in conflict regions

Refugees from South Sudan cross a bridge. The scientists want military forces held to account. Photograph: Isaac Kasamani/AFP/Getty Images

International lawmakers should adopt a fifth Geneva convention that recognises damage to nature alongside other war crimes, according to an open letter by 24 prominent scientists.

The legal instrument should incorporate wildlife safeguards in conflict regions, including protections for nature reserves, controls on the spread of guns used for hunting and measures to hold military forces to account for damage to the environment, say the signatories to the letter, published in the journal Nature.

The UN international law commission is due to hold a meeting with the aim of building on the 28 principles it has already drawn up to protect the environment in war zones.

Prof Sarah Durant of the Zoological Society of London, one of the signatories to the letter, said the principles were a major step forward and should be expanded to make specific mention of biodiversity, and then adopted across the world.

“The brutal toll of war on the natural world is well documented, destroying the livelihoods of vulnerable communities and driving many species, already under intense pressure, towards extinction,” she said.

“We hope governments around the world will enshrine these protections into international law. This would not only help safeguard threatened species, but would also support rural communities, both during and post-conflict, whose livelihoods are long-term casualties of environmental destruction.” MORE

Itemizing the daunting downsides of climate change

Doug Ford is reviewing Endangered Species Act to find ‘efficiencies for businesses’

Doug Ford seen at his swearing in ceremony on June 28, 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Canada’s most populous province has launched a sweeping review of a law protecting endangered species in order to find “efficiencies for businesses.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government announced the review of the provincial Endangered Species Act through a new discussion paper released Friday afternoon by the provincial Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

The paper’s wording suggests that Ford’s Progressive Conservatives — who promised in the 2018 election campaign to make Ontario “open for business” — are eager to soften the existing legislation and reduce onerous obligations on businesses. These obligations were put in place to help protect endangered species like the caribou — the iconic species featured on Canadian quarters — that are at risk of disappearing from regions of Ontario and other provinces due to industrial development.

Another environmental law, Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights, requires the government to begin a 45-day public consultation period as part of what it is calling its 10th-year review of the endangered species law. The consultation is now open. MORE

Parks Canada shirks UN request for review of Site C dam impacts on imperilled national park

UNESCO issued a stern warning that, in order to keep Wood Buffalo National Park off a list of world heritage sites in danger, Canada must take “major and timely” action on 17 recommendations, including an impact assessment of B.C.’s controversial megadam

Canada will not provide the UNESCO World Heritage Committee with an assessment of the impacts of the Site C dam on Wood Buffalo National Park, despite a recommendation it do so to keep the 4.5 million hectare park off a list of world heritage in danger — a list usually reserved for sites in countries facing war, poverty or disaster.

The clock is ticking towards a deadline for Canada to demonstrate to the committee that it is serious about saving Canada’s largest national park from energy development, dropping water levels and pollution. MORE

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