The Alberta Fish and Game Association Executive met with Alberta Environment & Parks, Fish and Wildlife personnel in December 2019. While no firm announcements were made, it can be reported that major changes are occurring across AEP. Whether this will include Fish Culture and Enforcement is unknown. Overall, the changes contemplated appear to be a good new story and should help to address many of the issues that AFGA has identified. AFGA was told to expect to see major announcements in coming weeks from Minister Nixon and Alberta Environment and Parks related to changes and priorities. The following is an overview of the meeting:
There have been no formal announcements that would indicate change in direction for fisheries management in Alberta. The exception is the provincial budget in October. The budget, while showing essentially a hold on spending within Alberta Environment & Parks Department, it does appear to reflect goals of increasing angling participation and opportunity. Capital improvements in infrastructure at the Allison Creek and Raven River Fish Hatchery facilities were highlighted. With Sam Livingstone Fish Hatchery coming back online for 2020 this is a bright spot for the angling community.
While there have not been public announcements related to changes in direction for fish and wildlife management in the province, it has been confirmed that there is major restructuring occurring within Alberta Environment and Parks. It appears the Fish and Wildlife Policy Division, including what have become largely autonomous components, Operations, Regions and Sections (biologists) aligned under a Resource Stewardship Group. Apparently, this will result in a more traditional leadership model with a provincial headquarters aimed at uniform direction and delivery of programs across the province.
While no formal notification has taken place, there appears to be indication of new initiatives related to fish stocking in the province. These include supplemental walleye stocking in southern Alberta reservoirs and restorative stocking of species at risk.
It appears we are moving back to public meetings at local or regional level supported by online surveys. In addition, there would be provincial level consultation forums which likely would include an updated version of the Alberta Fisheries Management Stakeholder Advisory Committee.
There also appears to be a commitment to get fisheries managers “out of the office” to engage with anglers as well involve them through “citizen science” projects. Such projects likely will be resemble those of the 1980/1990s where anglers helped with test fisheries in conjunction with F&W oversight.
Ongoing – Fisheries Management
Having a third-party review as originally envisioned of the Northern Pike and Walleye Management Frameworks is not going to take place. However, the “Cooke Report” does identify issues, both from a strength and weakness perspective that are common to fisheries management in Alberta and the science being applied. On regulatory front we may see regulatory options such as harvest slots being proposed. Benchmarks within Northern Pike Management Framework appear to up for discussion as well.
Species at Risk is an increasing file within the Province of Alberta. Just prior to the Federal election, Bull Trout where added to the SARA Registry as threatened in the Saskatchewan-Nelson populations and special concern in Western Arctic populations. Rainbow Trout in the Athabasca River populations were listed as endangered. With the already threatened listing of Westslope Cutthroat Trout in the Saskatchewan-Nelson populations the issue is now acute across a wide geographic band of the province commonly referred to as the East Slopes.
Other issues discussed which appear to be priorities are updating the Fisheries Conservation and Management Strategy, amending the Fisheries Regulations to allow more flexibility (special harvest licence, guide license, aquaculture licence, sturgeon licence and ice fishing shacks).
There was considerable discussion around aquatic invasive species. While Whirling disease is not classified under this designation, there are similarities in best approach to stop spread. A new aquatic invasive species was discovered, the Chinese Mystery Snail in Traverse Reservoir. Working locally with municipalities, education and Clean Dry Drain message is critical. Big news is that the Lower Crowsnest River appears to be a whirling disease hotspot with high levels of infection. What additional studies or actions should be taken will likely be a major discussion item.
Ongoing – Habitat
Bow River Watershed
There have been open houses, meetings and online consultations related to water management in the Bow River Basin. Another dam upriver of Calgary is proposed to deal with flood risk. CFGA has been engaged with this issue and for the last several years related to fisheries management of the Bow River as a member of an AEP stakeholder committee in the South Saskatchewan Region. The 2018-9 Bow River Fish Population Survey and Creel Survey Reports will be available in the first quarter of 2020 that will pave the way for future fishery management.
Border Paving Wet Pit – North Raven River
Our position is clear – the application for gravel extraction should be rejected by Clearwater County. A meeting has been scheduled for January 7, 2019 to finalize presentation to Clearwater County on January 15, 2019. As the issue evolves AFGA will be sending out information how everyone can engage on this file to ensure this development does not get the green light.
Spray Lake Sawmill FMA
Initial review of information shows a very limited Forest Management Agreement (FMA) application in terms of Values, Objectives, indicators and Targets (VOITS). Considering number of Species at Risk Act (SARA) listed species and multiple human induced disturbances on landscape, would have expected a much more comprehensive application. It is believed that this FMA application process has provincial relevance and as such should have AFGA input beyond Zone level.