B.C. concerned about endangered white sturgeon being caught in U.S. waters
It’s tricky business when fish cross national borders. Especially when it’s assessed as endangered in Canada, and it’s caught and killed in American waters.
The case of the white sturgeon is like this.
Existing since prehistoric times, this giant fish is endemic to North America’s West Coast. It is known to spawn only in three major rivers: the Sacramento and Columbia in the U.S., and the Fraser in B.C.
In 1994, the Canadian and B.C. governments moved jointly to stop the harvest of sturgeon. This covers all commercial and recreational fisheries in both fresh and salt water. First Nations have also adopted a moratorium.
However, sturgeon is still being caught in the catch-and-release recreational fishery in the Fraser River.
But the bigger problem is, when the Fraser sturgeon crosses the border and into Washington’s Puget Sound, it’s fair game to American anglers.
When the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission began to consider new sport fishing rules that include stopping the retention of white sturgeon in Puget Sound and its tributaries, it could have been good news for some of the Fraser sturgeon.
However, on February 6 this year, the commission decided that fishers can keep the sturgeon they catch during the 2012-13 season but only in these periods: June 1 to June 30 and September 1 to October 15.
B.C. wasn’t exactly happy.
Andrew Wilson, director of fish, wildlife and habitat management for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and Alec Dale, director of ecosystems protection and sustainability for the Ministry of Environment, expressed their concern over this in a letter dated February 24 to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The stated that the white sturgeon has been considered as an endangered species since 2003 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
The Straight talked to Wilson by phone on March 19.
“We did send them a letter…saying we want to have a more homogenous, harmonious approach to managing sturgeon,” Wilson said.
“Fish do cross into the Puget Sound and they come back to the Fraser,” Wilson also said. “We need to work together for the greater good of the species.”
Fisheries and Oceans Canada didn’t make a spokesperson available for an interview with the Straight.