Mission Creek has taken on a new shine for gold panning enthusiasts, which worries local conservation groups concerned with fish protection.
Hand-panning for gold nuggets re-emerged as a hobby with the bullish price of gold earlier this decade and the creek, particularly the region near the end of Hollywood Road South, is now regularly dredged by treasure seekers.
Technically, this is legal.
“Panning for gold that involves sluicing or mechanized disturbance is not permitted in British Columbia without a Mines Act permit; however, people are permitted to pan for gold in streams if they use only a pan and a shovel and do not impact the riparian areas,” said Matt Gordon, Ministry of Mines and Energy spokesperson, in an email from the ministry.
According to Gordon, the ministry believes “hand panning has very little potential to impact the fisheries resource” unless the gold panner could be disturbing salmon eggs incubating in the gravel.
This is exactly the problem according to Matt Hanson of the Okanagan Fisheries Foundation.
The newly-formed group believes the gold panning could hurt both rainbow trout stock and the beleaguer kokanee salmon population, which is only showing signs of coming back in the last couple of years.
Hanson has been in touch with MLA Steve Thomson trying to gain traction for a ban on panning from October to July.
Hanson says he and other conservationists from the B.C. Wildlife Federation will be chasing down the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as well.
The province has indicated DFO has the ability to restrict panning during certain time periods and Hanson is hoping if enough attention is called to the problem, he will secure the ear of interested fisheries officials.
In the meantime, he’s hoping that once waters recede, local gold panning buffs will wait until July to hit the creek and stop their activities come October.
“We’re not against gold panning, we just want it kept to that specific time of year,” he said.