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UBC scientists to protest Cheakamus plans today

Four University of British Columbia (UBC) scientists are going public with their criticism of the Cheakamus River recovery plans.

Four University of British Columbia (UBC) scientists are going public with their criticism of the Cheakamus River recovery plans.

The scientists are protesting the Ministry of Environment's decision to forgo repopulating the Cheakamus River with hatchery steelhead.

"The Cheakamus River steelhead population is being put at increased risk because of the provincial Ministry of Environment's refusal to include hatchery enhancement as part of the recovery plan," stated the scientists in a news release. "The proposed habitat improvement measures are extremely unlikely to work on the Cheakamus River. As a result, their decision imposes unnecessary risks on its wild population as well as unreasonable impacts on local communities, fishers, and the Squamish First Nation."

The Ministry of Environment's decision to use only habitat improvement to mitigate the devastating impact on the steelhead population caused by the CN derailment and caustic soda spill last summer, has prompted the scientists to speak out at a press conference scheduled for Friday (March 31) from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the UBC Fisheries Centre.

The scientists are three UBC faculty members and one independent with more than 10 years of experience working on the Cheakamus River. Together, they authored a paper entitled "Risk, Benefits, and Uncertainties Associated with Using Hatchery Supplementation to Recover the Cheakamus River Steelhead Population, and Rules to Assess Recovery Status" in which they estimated recovery time for the adult steelhead population is between 10 and 50 years.

"Predicted returns in 2008 are estimated to be about one quarter of the escapement estimated in 2005 of 380 fish," stated the paper.

The UBC scientists will make themselves available for questions during the press conference. They include Josh Korman, a fisheries scientist with 15 years consulting experience and a PhD candidate at UBC. He has conducted research and monitored the abundance of the Cheakamus River steelhead population since 1995; Steven Martell, an assistant professor of fisheries at UBC whose research focuses on quantitative stock assessment, population dynamics and ecosystem modeling;Eric Taylor, a professor of Zoology at the University of British Columbia who works on the evolutionary genetics and ecology of native fishes, and is a member of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada and the Freshwater Fishes Specialist Subcommittee; and Carl Walters, a professor of fisheries at the University of British Columbia and a world-renowned expert in the fields of fish population dynamics, fisheries assessment and sustainable management.

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