As evident by the recent smoke looming across the South and Central Vancouver Island, conditions are as dry as ever on the west coast. In response to these conditions, the Government of BC has implemented a Level four drought rating for all of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, which also imposes limits to fishing.
At Level four, conditions are extremely dry. Further declines in stream, lake and aquifer levels could lead to water shortages and affect people, industry such as agriculture, wildlife and fish stocks. The Government of BC is also urging all water users to abide by local water restrictions (set by the Town of Lake Cowichan and the CVRD)and minimize personal water usage as much as possible.
The province is suspending angling in streams and rivers throughout Vancouver Island, from Campbell River south to Victoria on the east coast and Bamfield south to Victoria on the west coast. The fishing ban is being implemented in order to protect fish stocks, which are under extreme pressure due to low flows and high water temperatures.
Along with the Cowichan River, Caycuse, Chemainus, Englishman, Gordon, Little Qualicum, Nanaimo, Nitinat, Oyster, Puntledge, San Juan, Sooke, Trent and Tsable rivers are also closed to fishing.
The only major rivers exempt from the closure are the “Big Qualicum” River and Quinsam River. According to a news release form the provincial government, these two streams contain adequate water refuges to protect fish, even through regular angling pressure.
Experts are currently monitoring other streams on the Island, and will extend the angling ban if necessary.
The province also warned that if dry conditions continue, the Level four drought rating could also lead to additional actions, which will handled on a region-by-region basis. Specific actions could include the suspension of short-term water approvals or water licenses in affected watersheds.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources will continue to monitor conditions and work with First Nations, local governments and other key stakeholders in order to keep restrictions up to date.
In related news, the Town of Lake Cowichan will be implementing Stage three water restrictions today (July 8), which restricts lawn sprinkling, car and driveway washing, the use of fountains or ponds (unless re-circulated water is used), and the filling of pools and hot tubs.