Having a peaceful, incident-free time while fishing the rivers of the Fraser Valley is the goal.
“The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), and your local Fishery Officers would like to remind the public that Indigenous communities and recreational anglers will be fishing and recreating in local rivers this summer and fall,” according to a July 25 news release issued jointly by DFO, First Nations, and recreational fishing leadership.
There have been reported incidents of disrespectful language on social media, as well as altercations, over fishing issues in previous years.
As a result DFO has been working closely in 2021 with RCMP, Indigenous leaders, local governments and stakeholders to craft a seasonal message “to encourage respectful behaviour and communication” while groups and individuals are out on the water.
“We have seen a lot of negative comments on social media about both the Sumas First Nation and Sts’Ailes First Nation fisheries taking place in the Chilliwack and Chehalis Rivers,” stated DFO fishery officer Mike Fraser, detachment commander, Fraser Valley East.
“These fisheries are limited fisheries with restricted gear to help First Nations obtain some food for the communities. Normally there are more opportunities in the Fraser River but limited returns in a mixed-stock fishery are providing very limited harvests. These are the main issues stirring up conflict that we are trying to curtail,” Fraser said.
The Chilliwack/Vedder River is open to recreational anglers to retain one chinook salmon per day, if they have a salmon tag, until Aug. 31, and then four per day retention after Sept. 1. However the Fraser River was closed to all salmon fishing on April 1 for conservation reasons.
Sumas (Sem:ath) First Nation has been fishing the Chilliwack-Vedder system, including where the Sumas River meets the canal, in a special gill-net fishery on heels of a pilot project last summer.
“The Sem:ath people are renewing our relationship and inherent obligation to protect resources in our territory, including fish and local tributaries that require restoration,” said Murray Ned, (Kwilosinton), a Sumas councillor. “Our salmon are in crisis, fisheries are diminishing each year and we recognize the need for cooperation with all nations, government and user groups to rectify the many complex issues contributing to the decline of Fraser salmon.”
Waiting for a time when Fraser fisheries fully recover is not an option for Sumas, which is why this fishery was given the green light last year.
“We must partner and work collaboratively on conservation and limited harvest opportunities,” Ned said.
Kelsey Charlie (Tixweltel), a Sts’ailes First Nation councillor, wanted it known that: “Xwem Xwem Sqwelewel Ikwelo,” which means “Sts’ailes are strong and proud of who we are and where we come from.”
The Sts’ailes, have “upheld our responsibility to take care of the Solh Temexw (Sacred Land) and the Snoweyelh (Laws)” since time immemorial, Charlie said.
“Sts’ailes also has a vested interest in the building of healthy relationships with all and ensuring strong salmon stocks for future generations. We need to take care of this so that our children and our children’s children have the same opportunity as we do today.”
Rod Clapton, recreational spokesperson for the Lower Fraser Collaborative Table, said the recreational community “supports the consultative process,” and working with local First Nations on respectful sharing of the salmon stocks on local rivers.
“The spirit of cooperation that has existed for many years between the local Indigenous communities and the sport fishing community, benefits all users and provides important information toward conservation efforts which are coordinated through Fraser River DFO staff,” Clapton said.
Getting all groups on board with the regulations is key, DFO officials said. Find out about freshwater regulations //www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/fresh-douce/region2-eng.html. Call DFO Observe Record Report Line at 1-800-465-4336 or visit www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca for more information or to report violations.
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