Spring Chinook Salmon. Photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service

Skeena First Nations call on DFO to close recreational fishing for chinook salmon

Skeena First Nations say all chinook beyond conservation should be available to their communities

Skeena First Nations are calling on the DFO to close recreational fishing for chinook salmon along the Skeena watershed for the 2019 season.

The Skeena First Nations, including the Gitxsan, the Wet’suwet’en, and Gitanyow, said that due to the shortage of sockeye they intend on harvesting as much chinook as possible and are seriously considering the possibility of not engaging in sockeye salmon directed food fisheries for 2019.

“We need DFO to understand the plain facts and act in accordance with Canadian law which gives First Nations a priority right to salmon after conservation needs are met. The numbers show that there is no surplus of skeena chinook for any non-First Nations harvest. The recreational fishery for chinook in the Skeena River and bound for the Skeena River has to be closed now to preserve that valuable food for our people,” Charlie Muldon, Coordinator of the Gitksan Watershed Authorities, said.

READ MORE: Recreational fishing for sockeye salmon in the Skeena River watershed temporarily closed

Skeena First Nations said they are of the view that all chinook beyond what is required for conservation should be available to their communities for food.

First Nations along the Skeena Watershed say that although the number of sockeye salmon expected to return to the Skeena River may surpass 400,000, this number is too low. The First Nations groups is setting a more precautionary number of 625,000.

“We encourage all First Nations to conserve sockeye this year. Conservation of the salmon resource, which has sustained our culture, communities, and families for millennia is paramount. DFO needs to enforce closures. The sockeye shortage this year will result in First Nations families running short of their preferred food this winter, and any time we can’t fish or get enough fish there is a significant cultural impact,” Wet’suwet’en Chief Namoks, John Ridsdale, said.

As of July 22, the number of chinook salmon returning to the Skeena River is forecasted to be between 32,000 and 35,000. The amount of chinook needed to spawn sustainably is 19,000.

READ MORE: B.C. First Nations get clarity on fishing rights from top court


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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