Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A First Nations fishery primer

As the 'marine' commercial fishing season ends, we thought we would shift focus and move upstream following the fish. This post will explore the various First Nations fisheries which we think have always been poorly explained to other user groups.

There are several different types of First Nation fisheries;
1.) Food, Social, and Ceremonial (FSC):
-FSC fisheries are second only to conservation within the DFO management hierarchy. Comes from the landmark 'Sparrow' Court decision in 1990. The rights to this fishery are entrenched in Section 35.1 of the Constitution, not like a licensed right such as sportfishing or commercial fishing.
- this is the basic food fishery where you see gillnets in back eddies on the Skeena and the major tributaries. Drifting with gillnets also occurs in mid-Skeena stretches.
-All salmon species are taken for food, including steelhead.
-in terms of scale of impact the FSC fishery takes approx. 5% of returning salmon in any given year....a relatively small percent compared to other fisheries i.e. the marine commercial fishery

2.)ESSR Fishery: escapement surplus to spawning requirements
-this fishery is now only in the Babine watershed; but has been implemented in other areas in the past, including the Meziadin in the Nass
-recently moved to more terminal locations
-occurs at places like Gisgegas on the lower Babine by dipnet and fishwheel; at the Babine weir; and at terminal sites at the Pinkut and Fulton Creek spawning facilities on Babine Lake
-targets sockeye heading to the spawning channels after a spawning requirement surplus has been identified
-operates under ESSR Regulations

3.)Economic Opportunity Fishery:
-the Economic Opportunity fisheries are accorded the same ranking as the usual all-citizens commercial fisheries.
-in Skeena, regular commercial fishing licences are rented or leased by First Nations groups from fishers or processors
-operates under the regular commercial fishing regulations
-this fishery uses only selective capture methods, such as beach seines, dipnets, or fish wheels....with beach seines being the most predominant
-targetting sockeye only; all other species released
-managed through the Skeena Fisheries Commission, who coordinates the whole fishery between the 3 First Nations groups; lower river Tsimshian; mid river Gitksan; and up-river Lake Babine Nation
-SFC was formed by an Memorandum of Understanding in 1987 that brings all the Skeena Nations together under traditional law - which is quite strict and very conservative - there are no bands involved in aboriginal fisheries or management on the Skeena - it is all done through traditional political structures this is in contrast to the Fraser and elsewhere
-for the overall commercial fishery approx. 200 people are directly employed, providing a good boost to the local economies
-Gitxsan beach seine crews typically require about 10 people each
-almost the whole village of Tachet, on Babine Lake, is employed when the commercial fishery is operating at Fulton river
-more people are involved in management, monitoring, and spin-offs such as catering, wood cutters, etc.
-The Gitanyow actually get no benefit from the Skeena fishery, the Gitanyow territory encompasses most of the Kitwanga watershed but does not extend to the Skeena, so they do not have traditional rights to the Skeena mainstem and do not partake in the Economic Opportunity fishery, most of the Gitanyow territory is in the Nass.

4)Individual Sale Fishery:
-in the Nass, within the Nisga'a territory
-when FSC catches do not meet Nisga'a entitlement targets, the surplus is made available both in the marine (saltwater) and in-river fisheries in whats called 'Individual Sale Fishery'
-the marine fishery opened in 2008 for 4 -48hr openings from July 16 to Aug.1., but the in-river fishery did not
-licenses are required by fishers to participate in all fisheries (FSC and Ind. Sales) and Permits are required for Individual Sale fisheries, all obtained through the Nisga'a Fisheries Department of the Nisga'a Lisims Government.
-the comprehensive updates provided by Nisga'a Fisheries provide numbers on FSC catches: for 2008 the estimate is approx 42,000 Nass sockeye; 4187 chinook; 3676 pink salmon; 349 chum; 58 steelhead ( 1994-2007 average harvest of 400 Nass stld.)
-the Nisga'a have quite a comprehensive fisheries program, so we might end up doing a post just on their various fisheries

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