The Stuart River salmon population has been a staple in the diet and culture of Nak’azdli Whut’en for generations, but their stock has declined in recent years. What was once an abundance of salmon, was now a battle to conserve the population while feeding and sustaining a whole village.
Last year, Coastal GasLink partnered with Nak’azdli Whut’en to support the community with a legacy project which would provide new fish hatcheries to re-establish salmon stocks.
“Now we have the ability to make an impact and feed the community again the way we used to,” said Pete Erickson, Nak’azdli Whut’en Hatchery Manager. “To tell the elders that we’ll be okay is going to be really important.”
Fast forward to June 2022, exactly one year since the hatcheries were delivered to the Stuart River waterfront, Nak’azdli Whut’en released their first 60,000 sockeye salmon fry into a creek connecting to the Stuart River system.
Along the busy stretch of the Stuart Lake Highway, the salmon were released into a small creek with prayers and drumming to send them along their way. Elders, Nak’azdli leadership, community members, invited guests and consultants each had the opportunity to release salmon down a chute or at the creek edge.
“We have always recognized the importance of watershed ecosystems and the significance of waterways to Indigenous communities across the Coastal GasLink project route. Supporting Nak’azdli in their efforts to restore salmon numbers in the north has been an honour,” said Joan Isac, Indigenous Engagement Lead.
The salmon will make their way to Stuart Lake for the next year and then travel down through river systems that ultimately reach the Pacific Ocean. Every year thousands of salmon make their way back from the ocean to the river they started from to spawn their eggs, which is a four-year trek.
Collaboration with Indigenous groups is a core component of our project in alignment with our commitment to creating an extraordinary legacy of safety and respect for all people, communities and the environment.