Fisheries Sensitive Watersheds

Nestled in the diverse landscapes scattered throughout British Columbia is a vast network of rivers and streams hosting world-renowned fisheries values. In some instances, maintaining these values requires modified management activities so the multitude of benefits provided by these rich ecosystems can be maintained. By doing so, not only are the ecological attributes that provide significant fisheries values conserved, but so are an important variety of social and economic values. In 2005, the Provincial Government recognized the considerable benefits derived from British Columbia’s natural environment, including fisheries resources, by setting as one of its five goals for the next decade:

To lead the world in sustainable
environmental management, with the
best air and water quality, and the
best fisheries management, bar none.

In the past there have been various forms of fisheries management initiatives aimed at protecting fish values. Typically, these were targeted at specific stocks or locations. Today, however, science has recognized the integral linkage between upland conditions and their influence on maintaining aquatic conditions necessary to sustain healthy fish populations. Accordingly, the tools required to manage for connectivity at the entire watershed level have been set out in the Fisheries Sensitive Watersheds (FSW) portions of the Forest Practices and Range Act (FRPA) regulations, and specifically the Government Actions Regulation (Sec 14) and the Forest Practices and Planning Regulation (Sec 8).

To qualify as an FSW candidate, watersheds must meet two criteria: they must have significant fisheries values and watershed sensitivity. Watersheds which meet the FSW test, and that have been designated by way of an order as an FSW by the Minister, require Forest Act agreement holders to establish results and strategies in their Forest Stewardship Plans consistent with the objective(s) set by the Minister. An FSW order established by the Minister sets out management direction to conserve important watershed level attributes protecting fisheries values. These attributes include the:

  • natural stream bed dynamics;
  • stream channel integrity;
  • quality, quantity and timing of water flow; and
  • natural, watershed level, hydrological conditions and integrity.

Recognizing that ecosystems, whether aquatic or terrestrial, are dynamic in nature, the Ministry of Environment is committed to a process of Adaptive Management. In concert with key partners and stakeholders, the Ministry will continually strive to improve regulatory direction based on the best available science and in a manner that ensures environmental protection and operational efficiency.