Skeena Nations Demand Complete Closure of Recreational Fishery

A group representing eight northwest First Nations is demanding a complete closure of all recreational fisheries -- both freshwater and marine -- on the Skeena Watershed for the 2018 season.

Bruce Watkinson, who co-chairs the Skeena Nations Fish Secretariat, says in a news release that his group opposes the decision by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the BC government to allow recreational anglers to catch one chinook per day in marine waters near Prince Rupert and some other coastal areas.

In an interview with CFTK News, Watkinson said shutting down the retention of salmon throughout the Skeena system, and cutting bag limits in marine waters are good first steps, but officials need to go further. 

"When you say there's no retention of chinook in the Skeena River but you're still allowed to catch and keep one chinook in the marine, salt water fishery, well guess where fishermen are going to go?  They're going to go and fish in the ocean -- so in that respect you're moving fishermen around but you're not necessarily saving fish," he said.

The Skeena First Nations Technical Committee says the DFO failed to follow its recommendation that all recreational fisheries impacting Skeena chinook be closed -- with no catch-and-release option. 

Watkinson says his group is also against the DFO's decision to allow the recreational fishery to harvest Chinook during the current salmon crisis, and the province's decision to issue guide outfitter permits and individual licenses to allow the recreational steelhead catch and release fishery to remain open.

Watkinson says the Skeena Nations support conservation -- but also their Constitutional Aboriginal rights must be recognized and respected.

He says to ensure this, the group will engage in a collaborative process and dialogue with the DFO and the BC Government.

The Skeena Watershed First Nations has members from the Gitga'at, Gitxaala, Gitxsan, Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, Lake Babine, Metlakatla and Wet'suwet'en nations.

==== NEWS RELEASE ====

Skeena Nations prohibit all recreational and sport fisheries this season due to salmon crisis

 

PRINCE RUPERT, B.C., June 12, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Eight First Nations along the Skeena River watershed stand together to close the freshwater and marine recreational fisheries, and oppose recent actions by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Province of British Columbia, in response to an emerging salmon crisis that threatens Skeena watershed salmon stocks.

The Skeena River is one of the largest freshwater systems in the Pacific Region of the north coast of British Columbia. The Skeena Watershed First Nations [Skeena Nations] are signatories to the Skeena Nations Fish Forum Protocol, and have territories, traditional fishing sites and rights along the Skeena River. The Skeena Nations accept the work and recommendations of the Skeena First Nations Technical Committee [SFNTC] which developed fishing plan recommendations for the recreational and commercial fisheries intended to protect Skeena Chinook. The SFNTC requested that DFO close all freshwater and marine recreational fisheries impacting Skeena Chinook, with no catch and release option. DFO did not follow this recommendation, and the result is a management regime that will exacerbate the crisis on the Skeena and allow for overfishing.

“We oppose the actions of DFO allowing the recreational fishery to harvest Chinook in this salmon crisis, and BC issuing guide outfitter permits and individual licenses to allow the recreational steelhead catch and release fishery to remain open,” stated Bruce Watkinson, Co-Chair of the Skeena Nations Fish Secretariat. “If Canada and BC are serious about their commitments to Indigenous Peoples, then the Skeena watershed and marine waters should be closed to all recreational salmon fishing for the 2018 season.”

DFO’s actions appease the recreational fishery but fail to live up to its obligations to protect the Skeena fishery and the interests of First Nations. “The Skeena Nations support conservation, however our Constitutional Aboriginal rights must be recognized and respected – to ensure this, we will engage in a collaborative process and dialogue with DFO and BC.”

About the Skeena Nations
In November 2015, eight First Nations signed the Skeena Nations Fish Forum Protocol, establishing the Skeena Watershed First Nations [Skeena Nations] and the Skeena Nations Fish Secretariat. Collectively they coordinate their respective governance on the Skeena River watershed. The First Nations’ signatories comprise of leadership from Gitga’at, Gitxaala, Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs, Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, Lake Babine, Metlakatla, and the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs.

Media Contact
Bruce Watkinson, Co-Chair
Skeena Nations Fish Secretariat