First Nation group expresses concern over commercial salmon fishery opening before conservation levels met
By Emma Crawford Hampel
The Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations has expressed its concern over the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Canada’s opening of a commercial sockeye fishery before agreed-upon salmon count levels have been met.
The fishery is located in Smith Inlet on British Columbia’s central coast. The First Nation group said that the DFO had previously stated that a fishery wouldn’t open until a minimum count of 100,000 salmon passed through a counting fence located at Docee Creek.
The Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw said there have been fewer than 75,000 sockeye counted.
“We are really surprised by this,” said elected Chief Paddy Walkus.
“We didn’t go fishing for food fish out of concern for taking appropriate conservation steps. Now they have gone and opened a commercial fishery without consulting us at all.”
The Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw has six reserves, including traditional villages and fishing stations, around Smith Inlet. Walkus said it has been fishing the area “since time immemorial,” and that the DFO is supposed to give their constitutionally protected rights priority over commercial interests.
“It is really amazing to us that they can’t even observe their own conservation targets, let alone ensure we have sufficient food and livelihood,” Walkus said.
A representative for the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw said this isn’t the first time this situation has come up; something similar happened in 2011.
As of press time, the DFO has not provided Business in Vancouver with a response.