ARMS is working to bring salmon back to the Alouette River system. (Contributed)

Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs renew fishing ban

Conservation measure part of long-term hopes to revamp permitting process in their territory

Thirty-eight Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs have renewed a ban on recreational salmon fishing in their traditional territory.

The action, targeting all licence and permit holders for the 2019 season, is in response to consecutive years of poor salmon returns and what the chiefs say is inadequate crisis management by the province and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

“All persons holding recreational fishing permits or fish-guiding licenses are no longer allowed to trespass in Gitxsan territory. People need to know that when they fish here, they are trespassing in controlled territory,” says Brian Williams, Chair of Gigeenix, in a press release.

READ MORE: Gitxsan chiefs ‘close’ territory to recreational fishery

The 2019 ban follows similar action first taken last year, which DFO did not recognize or enforce.

At the time of this posting DFO could not be reached for comment on the 2019 ban.

Like last year, the Hereditary Chiefs say anyone found fishing salmon in their territory will be asked to stop. They claim up to 90 per cent of its members have abstained from harvesting salmon until the numbers return.

Meanwhile an advisory committee, referred to as a Crisis Team by the chiefs, has been meeting with federal and provincial officials to discuss public access to the territory in 2020. They say the ban marks the beginning of an “ambitious journey” to collaborate with the government to create a process where all recreational fishers must have permission from individual chiefs to fish their rivers.

READ MORE: Gitxsan forming cross-sector salmon management team

“Our fish are in crisis and this is an ongoing situation with a track record that has been going downhill. We have to do something. The next step we talk about is to find a path to turn this around and banning recreational and sports fishers from fishing our traditional territory is a step in the right direction,” says Art Wilson (Wiimoulglxsw), Gitxsan Hereditary Chief.

The chiefs say they hope to show transparency in the decision-making process through a communication platform that includes live streaming of meetings at gitxsan.ca.

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