Skeena First Nations Call for Closure of Chinook Sports Fishery

John Crawford

Three Skeena First Nations say they're facing an imminent food fishery shortage, and are calling for an immediate closure of the recreational chinook fishery on the Skeena watershed.

The Gitxsan, Wet'suwet'en and Gitanyow nations say sockeye numbers are not strong enough for an aboriginal food fishery this year, meaning that they are forced to turn to chinook to fulfill their requirements, as mandated by the Canadian constitution.

Wet'suwet'en Chief Namoks (John Ridsdale) says the situation has reached crisis stage.

"When stocks are endangered, as per the Constitution of Canada, Section 35, indigenous people have a right to our food, sustenance and ceremonial and then after that, it is public access -- but first and foremost is conservation, so we're looking after the conservation measures right from the mouth of the Skeena right to the spawning beds."

He says this is an ongoing problem, and it's time to get ahead of the game, while there's still a resource to preserve.

[PHOTO:   Wet'suwet'en Chief Namoks (John Ridsdale) ]

"Government is constantly putting money into endangered species when it's too late, so let's do this;  we went 20 years -- the Wet'suwet'en have -- without retaining our food fish needs on sockeye, and it's gotten to the point where we're asking for the closure to ensure that the chinook and the sockeye are abundant; we believe that the coho and pink numbers will be sufficient right now but it is the sockeye that we're mostly concerned about," he said.

Ridsdale says it's possible that, even with a recreational closure, chinook numbers might not be strong enough for a food fishery either. 

[FILE PHOTO:  Fishing near Hazelton]


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