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May 29, 2008

Panel's recommendations for Skeena fishery get thumbs up

A panel of scientists spent the last six months looking into the future of BC's second-largest wild salmon fishery

An independent scientific review of BC's Skeena River salmon fishery lays out a bold agenda for changing the way wild salmon are managed, say conservation advocates with Skeena Wild Conservation Trust.

A panel of four scientists that spent the last six months looking into the future of BC's second-largest wild salmon fishery released its final recommendations recently.

"We feel the panel's recommendations represent a sound approach to the major issues facing Skeena salmon," said Greg Knox, Executive Director of Skeena Wild. "We'll be working closely with all sectors to ensure implementation minimizes impacts on current users. We're also confident that new opportunities will be created in the process."

The review panel, convened by the Pacific Salmon Foundation, was made up of James Lichatowich, Dr. Carl Walters (UBC), Dr. Randall Peterman (SFU) and Dr. John Reynolds.

The Panel's recommendations include:

- Create a collaborative management arrangement for the Skeena that includes government agencies, user and interest groups, and the broader community.

- Reduce Alaska's interception of Skeena salmon.

- Cooperate to address threats to habitat, including coal bed methane, oil and gas pipelines, mines, roads, pine beetle infestation and climate change impacts.

- Reduce marine harvest rates for Skeena salmon to protect weak stocks.

- Make selective fishing gear mandatory at the mouth of the Skeena.

- Improve in-season management decisions using tagging and radio tracking.

"The panel has embraced the opportunity to create a genuine and significant shift in Canada's fisheries management practices," said Knox. "Continuing to manage salmon in the way we have in the past is simply no longer an option."

The panel was tasked with determining whether the current management and assessment framework for the Skeena fishery is sufficient to meet the objectives of Canada's Wild Salmon Policy, and whether adequate stock information exists to inform sound management.

SkeenaWild Conservation Trust is a regional initiative aimed at making the Skeena River Watershed a global model of sustainability.

The panel's report is available for download at www.skeenawild.org.