Close this search box.

Sustaining freshwater recreational fisheries in a changing environment


Generating solutions




2015 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition - Natural Resources and the Environment: Sector Challenges - Genomic Solutions

Genome Centre(s)



Project Leader(s)

Fiscal Year Project Launched


Project Description

Goal: To use conservation genomics to provide the tools, information and policy recommendations needed to sustain the rainbow trout recreational fishery.

Recreational fishing is a treasured pastime for 40 million people in North America that allows people of all ages to come together and enjoy the outdoors. 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 sometimes closed in summer to recreational fishing because of high water temperatures, and other environmental changes such as decreases in oxygen and changes in acidity as a result of climate change are also having negative impacts. Over the next 50 years, more than 30% of rainbow trout populations in North America are projected to be at risk.

The University of British Columbia’s Dr. Patricia M. Schulte, along with Drs. Ben Koop of the University of Victoria and Anthony Farrell of UBC, are 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 because 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.

The GE3LS research component of the project will focus on the risks and benefits of conservation and restoration. The research will characterize alternative means and costs of mitigating the impacts of multiple stressors on rainbow trout, assess the perspectives of diverse stakeholders to develop tools for integrating the new social-ecological knowledge generated by this research into regulatory and management decision-making and develop comprehensive decision-guiding documents for management agencies and stakeholders.

Project outcomes to date*:

  • Sequencing genomes of wild rainbow trout and steelhead populations in British Columbia, including the giant Gerrard rainbow trout in Kootenay Lake, to determine genetic similarities and differences.
  • Partnering with Freshwater Fisheries Society of British Columbia to sequence genomes in varieties of rainbow trout used to stock lakes for recreational fishing in British Columbia. Looking for naturally occurring genetic variations that may make fish more resistant to impacts of climate change (such as rising water temperature, decreased oxygen and changing acidity)
  • Collaborating with genomics researchers from Columbia River Intertribal Fisheries Commission to characterize genetic variation of rainbow trout in ancestral First Nations lands in Columbia River basin (BC Okanagan, Oregon, Washington).
  • Collaborating with researchers at University of California to study and compare genetic characteristics of stocked fish in California and British Columbia to determine if varieties in southern locations are evolving differently from their northern counterparts in response to climate change.
  • Developing inventory of gene sequences for multiple varieties of rainbow trout to create foundation for low-cost, evidence-based management tools that can be used to monitor and maintain fish stocks for maximum genetic diversity and health.
  • Partnering with Beaty Biodiversity Museum to create display on salmon and trout diversity.
  • Represented on Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Project will supply results for consideration.
  • Active outreach to fisheries management community, including participation in regional workshops and World Congress on Recreational Fishing.
  • Research collaborations in place with government scientists and teams at University of British Columbia, University of British Columbia at Okanagan, University of Northern British Columbia, University of Victoria, University of Calgary, University of Ottawa, University of California at Davis, and University of California at Santa Barbara.
  • Building next generation of scientific capacity in genomics and GE3LS research by engaging postdocs and students at all levels to gather data in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario.
  • Publication of early results in Journal of Fish Biology (2018).
  • GE3LS component: In summer 2018, interdisciplinary GE3LS team will meet with northern BC First Nations communities with goal of developing conservation partnerships between community members, researchers, and scientists. Will launch first round of GE3LS surveys with First Nations, anglers, and management groups in British Columbia.

*Revised July 2018