More public input invited for Salish Sucker survival

Recovery strategy finished, DFO works on SARA action plan

The action plan for two endangered fish is still only a draft document, and public input is once again being invited from residents.

Fisheries and Oceans is holding several public consultation meetings throughout Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. They’ll be in Harrison Hot Springs on February 28 at the Ramada Hotel, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Species at Risk Act will be discussed, which outlines ways to protect the habitat of the Salish Sucker and the Nooksack Dace.

Several District of Kent councillors and the mayor plan to attend one or more of the public consultations, they said during Monday’s council meeting.

“I would encourage you all to get a copy (of the SARA) and read through it,” said Councilor Lorne Fisher.

Both of the freshwater fish species are listed as endangered under the SARA. As the two species face similar threats, DFO has developed a draft action plan for both species that identifies actions to support their recovery.

They said Nooksack Dace can be found in the Brunette River, Bertrand Creek, Fishtrap Creek and Pepin Brook watersheds in Canada. Salish Sucker can be found in the Salwein Creek/Hopedale Slough, Atchelitz /Chilliwack /Semmihault Creek, Elk Creek / Hope Slough, Bertrand Creek, Fishtrap Creek, Pepin Brook, Salmon River, Mountain Slough, Agassiz Slough and Miami Creek watersheds.

DFO is required to develop a recovery strategy and then an action plan for all aquatic species listed as Endangered or Threatened under SARA. They posted a final Recovery Strategy for Nooksack Dace on the SARA Public Registry (www.sararegistry.gc.ca) in 2008.

In January and February 2011, DFO held community meetings and workshops to consult on the draft Salish Sucker Recovery Strategy and gather input for an action plan for Nooksack Dace and Salish Sucker.

The meeting held in Harrison Hot Springs last year was at standing room only, and brought out the tempers of many farmers in the audience.

DFO said input from that meeting, and others like it, were considered when developing the draft action plan “and incorporated where appropriate.”

The draft action plan also includes an estimate of the socio-economic costs and benefits of the actions outlined in the plan and a description of the proposed measures to protect critical habitat that has been identified for Nooksack Dace and Salish Sucker in the recovery strategy for each species.

“Under SARA, critical habitat for aquatic species must be legally protected from destruction once it is identified,” DFO said in an email announcing the upcoming meetings. “For Nooksack Dace and Salish Sucker, this will be accomplished through SARA orders, which will prohibit the destruction of the identified critical habitat. Destruction may be permitted by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans if done in accordance with the conditions contained within SARA. The orders will provide additional protection for critical habitat areas that are already subject to the Fisheries Act, which prohibits the destruction of fish habitat.”

For more information on SARA orders, visit www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/saraconsultations.

A meeting will also be held at the Coast Hotel in Chilliwack on February 29 from 6 p.m. to 9 pm.