Sports fishermen are making a big fuss over a four-day Chinook sports fishing closure by the Kitsumkalum First Nation of a small piece of the Skeena River.
The commercial gillnet fleet’s Chinook fishery did not take place this year at all, for the same reasons – reasons which commercial fishermen support.
The First Nations who usually harvest Skeena sockeye under their protected (Section 35 of Canada’s Constitution) food, social and ceremonial (FSC) rights agreed not to fish Sockeye in 2017. They also informed DFO, sports, commercial and conservation groups that their FSC needs would have to be met by taking larger than normal catches of Chinook and other species.
The DFO Skeena Harvest Rules normally set out that if the Skeena sockeye run size is less than 400,000, Fisheries Certificate System (FCS) fishing on sockeye shall cease. This year, Skeena First Nations voluntarily agreed that they would not harvest sockeye unless the run size was 625,000. This increase in escapement protection was done voluntarily by FNs in order to safeguard Skeena Sockeye. DFO is presently predicting the sockeye run size as 600,000 and FN are not food fishing sockeye.
The creel survey on the lower Skeena indicates that over 1,000 Kalum springs have been killed and taken home by sports fishermen. So far, the Kitsumkalum First Nation has caught around 100. The commercial net fleet has taken none.
Sports fishermen should count themselves lucky that they are taking more springs in Kalum’s territory than the Kalum people are. Kitsumkalum First Nation is using two seven-inch mesh selective nets (no beach seines) which will catch very large fish only, in order to avoid smaller (sockeye) species.
It is so very ignorant for sports fishermen, who have no real economic need, no real food need, and no ceremonial or social necessity, to complain that they have been shut out of a tiny area while the First Nations people who have a right to provide themselves with fish, are taking so few.
Prince Rupert, B.C.