Tsolum River closed to fishing

The Tsolum River Restoration Society asked people to please respect the future generations of fish.

ALTHOUGH PINK SALMON have returned to the Tsolum River

ALTHOUGH PINK SALMON have returned to the Tsolum River

With all the good news of a huge pink salmon run, coho numbers looking quite promising and trout populations trending upwards in the Tsolum watershed.

Residents are taking to the river with their fishing rods and even nets! The Tsolum River Restoration Society asked people to please respect the future generations of fish. This is a wonder of nature and a remarkable comeback.

The BC Conservation Office takes poaching seriously. Dramatic fines and consequences can be levied.

The Tsolum River Restoration Society would rather have our residents and visitors know that the river is closed for good reasons and that people who enjoy fishing are reading their regulations when purchasing their fishing licences.

If you have a licence and you have read the regulations as to where you can fish and where you cannot, you would have come across page 21 in the BC Freshwater Fishing Regulations – Region 1, Vancouver Island, under Water Specific Regulations – Tsolum River – Closed all year.

Why is the Tsolum River closed to fishing?

When the Mound Washington Copper Mine was abandoned in 1964, a process known as “acid mine drainage” (AMD) began. By 1999, the Tsolum River earned the dubious honour of being the most endangered river in B.C. and in 2000 it was declared “dead” by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The depletion of stocks as a result of this calamity caused the river to become a “river of special conservation concern.” All fishing was suspended indefinitely.

All enhancement efforts through the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s failed to rebuild stocks. In 1993 only a few fish returned to the Tsolum.

Since the early ’80s, efforts were directed to trying to figure out what was wrong.

This effort was spurred originally by the Comox Valley Chapter of the Steelhead Society then picked up by then-Comox Valley MLA Stan Hagen and then champions inside the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Environment Canada.

In 1985 the AMD was discovered. Hagen, the Steelhead Society and others worked together towards a quick $1.5-million fix and the partial cover was installed in 1988/9. By 1990, however, the cover was deemed a failure and the Tsolum was left to languish, slowly dying from toxic copper leachate.

By 2009 the TRRS along with a unique partnership of stakeholders had effectively worked towards solving the problem and sealed the old minesite, successfully stopping the leaching.

After attempting a Passive Wetland Treatment that helped in 2003 and evidence that the original partial cover was working, new energy was born. Finally, thanks to a $4.5-million grant from the Province the AMD was sealed away and water quality returned to normal.

In the aftermath of this near-total collapse, fishing was closed year-round in the Tsolum and remains so today.

The new seal is working beautifully and we begin to see a day in the future when a limited sports fishery can be reinstated on the Tsolum River. The board of directors of the Tsolum River Restoration Society and the Tsolum River Partnership are all working towards that day.

There are two major ways you can help in this huge and successful effort: One is to become a member and participate where and when you can in returning the Tsolum River to health by joining us, volunteering or donating and the second way is to keep your eyes on the river and let anyone fishing know that there is no fishing permitted in the Tsolum.

There is fishing permitted in the upper watershed lakes such as Lost Lakes and Regan Lake — see your Freshwater Fishing regulations for details.

Your money, when you buy a fishing licence, goes back to work in rivers all over B.C. to increase angling opportunity and support recreational fisheries. When you buy your licence you are helping and you will receive your booklet of regulations.

The regulations for Vancouver Island can be downloaded at www.env.gov.bc.ca/fw/fish/regulations/docs/1315/fishing_synopsis_2013-15_region1.pdf.

— Tsolum River Restoration Society

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