Moves to protect BC salmon and trout from severe drought

The provincial government in British Columbia has said it will take targeted action to support the salmon and trout on Vancouver Island from extreme drought conditions.

So far the huge fires which have been raging through parts of the Canadian province have not affected the seafood sector but the drought – rated at levels 4 to 5 in some areas, with 5 being the worst – has hit the fish population.

The Tsolum River has seen persistent low stream flows that are threatening the survival of salmon and trout. The fish-population protection order will help restore water flow levels and protect these fish species.

From Saturday some 45 surface and groundwater licence holders in the Tsolum River watershed must stop using water for forage crops, which include grass for hay, alfalfa and forage corn. Water use for industrial purposes, as outlined in the protection order, must also cease.

The order does not apply to water diverted and used for non-forage crops, such as market vegetables, livestock watering or domestic purposes. It also does not apply to water users that are supported by off-stream water storage.

Irrigation of forage crops is one of the most water-intensive agricultural water uses.

Water used to extinguish a fire or contain and control the spread of a fire remains exempt by provisions under the Water Sustainability Act, so these orders will not apply to water that is used to control the spread of wildfires. However, people under an evacuation order due to wildfire must leave the area immediately.

These decisions are always made as a last resort, recognising the impact on people and businesses, the provincial government says.

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