Recreational fishing is a treasured pastime for 40 million people in North America – think Huckleberry Finn out on the Mississippi. It is also economically important, contributing more than $120 billion annually to the North American economy, of which $8 billion accrues to Canada. Rainbow trout are a cornerstone of recreational fishing, but wild populations are in danger due to climate change and human impacts. Already many rivers in BC and Alberta are closed in summer to recreational fishing because of high water temperatures, while more than 200 BC lakes are unable to support stocking programs because of changes in water acidity. Over the next 50 years, more than 30% of rainbow trout populations in North America are at risk.
The University of British Columbia’s Dr. Patricia M. Schulte is leading an interdisciplinary team of natural and social scientists who will use conservation genomics to provide the tools, information and policy recommendations needed to sustain the rainbow trout recreational fishery. The team will sequence the genomes of rainbow trout from different populations to assess their genetic diversity and identify appropriate strains of fish for stocking that will be resilient to the effects of climate change. They will also develop low-cost tools for fisheries managers to monitor the genetic health of rainbow trout populations and develop policy recommendations for managers and stakeholders to help them manage and preserve rainbow trout. The team will work with end users to ensure the application of its findings.
The potential benefits of this project are significant. By identifying strains of rainbow trout that are resilient to stresses as a result of climate change and other human impacts, and by giving fisheries managers tools to monitor Rainbow trout populations, the team’s work will help preserve recreational fishing for generations to come.