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Steelhead enhancement goes ahead

Province reverses position after independent review

The Ministry of Environment reversed its position on steelhead enhancement Wednesday, announcing it will allow hatchery stock to be used to help restore Cheakamus River steelhead.

"I’ve said from the very beginning that our actions must be based on the best scientific analysis," Barry Penner, Minister of Environment said in a press release.

An independent fishery scientist hired last month recommended to the ministry that a short-term hatchery program, in conjunction with natural habitat restoration, be implemented. His findings concur with scientists, anglers and environmentalists who asked that steelhead returning this month to the river be captured as brood stock.

The enhancement programs will capture 40 adult steelhead to produce 20,000 smolts and will be funded by Canadian National Railway, as part of the company’s commitment to recovering fish stocks that were decimated after a derailment and caustic soda spill in the river last summer.

Ministry of Environment will monitor the program and expect immediate implementation will improve numbers for 2009 and 2010 steelhead populations.