Just when you think a corner may have been turned with respect to focusing media attention to raise public and political awareness on the plight of those interior Fraser steelhead comes another announcement by our federal government’s fishery managers who would have us believe they subscribe to the gospel of conservation. Decide for yourselves how seriously these people take the all time worst conservation emergency facing what is arguably the most revered steelhead stock in British Columbia. Does the projected escapement of less than 200 steelhead to seed the vastness of the Chilcotin and Thompson steelhead habitat resonate with anyone in the federal camp? Was it not DFO’s own staff who have collaborated with the provincial authorities on all the modelling exercises that generated this number?
ABORIGINAL – Salmon: Economic Opportunities
FN1198-ABORIGINAL – Salmon: Economic Opportunities – Chum – Area 29 and Region 2 – Lower Fraser Area
A commercial economic opportunity fishery is authorized for Aitchelitz, Cheam, Kwaw-kwaw-apilt, Peters, Shxwha:y Village, Shxw’ow’hamel, Skowkale, Skwah, Soowahlie, Squiala, Sumas, Tzeachten, Yakweakwioose and the Yale First Nation for chum salmon using beach seines in the Fraser River. This fishery is open daily for beach seines from 08:00 hours to 16:00 hours, Friday November 10, Monday November 13, and Tuesday November 14, 2017 in the following areas: portions of Area 29 and Region 2, the main stem of the Fraser River from Kanaka Creek to Hope Bridge. Only individuals designated by the Aitchelitz, Cheam, Kwaw-kwaw-apilt, Peters, Shxwha:y Village, Shxw’ow’hamel, Skowkale, Skwah, Soowahlie, Squiala, Sumas, Tzeachten, Yakweakwioose and the Yale First Nation are authorized to participate in this fishery. All aspects of the communal licence will be enforced. Fish harvesters are advised to contact their band for a copy of the conditions of their fishing licence.
NOTES: The target species in this fishery is chum salmon. Retention of hatchery marked coho salmon (i.e. fish with a healed scar in place of the adipose fin) caught incidentally is also permitted. There will be non-retention of chinook, sockeye, pink, wild coho salmon (i.e. adipose fin is present), steelhead and sturgeon. Opportunities to harvest chum salmon will be constrained by management objectives for Interior Fraser steelhead which is a stock of concern presently co-migrating in the Fraser River. All non-target species will be released back to the water alive and unharmed. It is mandatory that all salmon retained under the authority of this licence be transported to the nearest landing station and made available for inspection. A monitor shall be present during all landing of catch to record the number and weight of each species of salmon delivered.
OK, 14 First Nations fishing 100 km of river under communal licenses with aspects that will be enforced. Heaven knows what those aspects are and who might be enforcing them. It seems a little strange that “fish harvesters are advised to contact their band for a copy of the conditions of their license”. I wonder how many do and/or what the consequences would be if they didn’t. I wonder if anyone even knows how many fish harvesters are out there. Isn’t it comforting to know these chum harvest opportunities are constrained by management objectives for those steelhead? Might I ask how? Who are the monitors that will be present during all landing of catch? There must be a lot of them given 14 First Nations over 100 km. And, where might all those landing stations be? Can we see what a landed catch report looks like? Does it speak to all the fish released or is it just a chum corpse count?
No doubt DFO will offer that beach seines do no harm. Obviously beach seines are preferred over set and drifted gill nets but only if there is at least token vigilance by someone a little more independent than the fishers themselves. Give us some confidence in this respect DFO. Convince us that you take conservation as something other than lip service and deception.
Then, above all else, someone out there please share with us why chum salmon are suddenly a target species for First Nations that traditionally treated them with disdain? We know the roe is highly valuable in the non-traditional, non-First Nations cultures and marketplaces but what do these latter day economic opportunity fishers do with the other 80% or more of the tonnage of chum flesh removed from the water? How traditional is that?
Remember what we’re talking about here: