Chief Susan Miller

Langley area First Nations among those suing over chinook salmon sport fishing

Kwantlen, Katzie and Seabird Island want federal regulators to shut down Vancouver Island sport fisheries

A lawsuit that aims to shut down sport fishing for chinook salmon bound for the Fraser River has been launched by a group that includes Langley-area First Nations.

The Katzie, Kwantlen and Seabird Island First Nations are mounting a legal challenge of the way the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) manages spring chinook salmon on the Fraser.

The lawsuit was filed in Federal Court in Vancouver on Friday (July 15).

The three Fraser River First Nations are asking for an order that halts sport fishing off the coast of Vancouver Island because, they say, the recreational anglers there are taking  too much from the spring chinook stocks that are heading for the Fraser River.

They issued a joint statement Tuesday that said DNA analysis of scale samples collected from fish caught in the marine sports fishery show chinook are being caught in “substantial” numbers.

“Analysis also shows that more are being killed after being caught and then released” the statement said.

The statement went on to say the decision to take court action was made after Chief Robert Gladstone of the Shxwha:y Village near Chilliwack was charged with taking one fish from the Fraser River for a traditional ceremony in March 2015.

Chief Susan Miller of the Katzie First Nation said DFO is giving priority to sports fishermen over First Nations.

“While we sit on the banks of the Fraser River to conserve these fish for our future generations, sports fishermen are out there taking thousands for recreation,” Miller said.

“They’re catching Fraser-bound chinook … at the mouth of the ocean.”

Councillor Les Antone of the Kwantlen First Nation said going out and fishing for spring chinook to begin each season is a part of First Nations culture and way of life.

“Our Elders crave these fish, and many of our ceremonies and teachings revolve around the spring chinook,” Antone said.

“We are concerned about our food security, but also our ability to pass on the important practices and traditions around the spring chinook to our younger and future generations.”

Jay Hope, Seabird Island Corporate Affairs Director said the lawsuit comes after several years of trying to negotiate on a “Nation-to-Nation basis” with DFO.

“Unfortunately, DFO has refused to engage with us in any meaningful way,” Hope said.

“They chose to ignore us (so) we have no choice but to take legal action to protect the spring chinook and our rights.”

Legal action comes after allocation swap proposal generates resistance

The legal action come after a controversial proposal that would have transferred part of the Fraser River chinook allocation from recreational fishermen to First Nations groups was sidelined by a predicted poor return of chinook salmon.

Last month, Jeff Grout, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) regional resource manager of salmon, said the final in-season assessment was predicting a chinook return to the Fraser River of about 43,000 this season.

That is below the minimum threshold of 45,000, considered the “lowest zone of abundance” below which stricter measures are taken to preserve fish stocks.

“As a result, the department is implementing management actions for First Nations, recreational and commercial fisheries that are intended to substantially reduce impacts on Fraser chinook stocks of concern” Grout said.

On the Fraser River, Grout said First Nations food, social and ceremonial fisheries will be reduced.

The allocation swap proposal was put forward by First Nations representatives during a series of meetings with DFO in January, March and April to consult on conservation and harvest planning for Fraser River salmon.

The proponents cited the the 1990 Sparrow case where the Supreme Court of Canada called for a “generous, liberal interpretation” of the aboriginal right to fish the Fraser River and said that “any allocation of priorities after valid conservation measures have been implemented must give top priority to Indian food fishing.”

The court decision said that if there was only enough fish to meet First Nations needs after conservation limits were set, “then all the fish available after conservation would go to the Indians according to the constitutional nature of their fishing right.”

A newly-formed coalition of Fraser River fishing guides, recreational anglers and industry reps has been formed to oppose altering allocations at their expense.

The  Fraser River Sportfishing Alliance (FRSA) has made three demands, calling on Fisheries to “manage the Fraser River salmon fishery in an equitable fashion that recognizes the rights of sport anglers,” to promise that the recreational fishing allocation of salmon should not be transferred to “another sector” and that the “tremendous economic value of the recreational  Fraser River salmon fishery … be recognized.

The amounts allocated to different user groups vary depending on the type and number of available fish, but a look at one popular category of chinook shows First Nations fishermen have received the largest share.

Figures provided to Black Press by DFO for 2010 to 2014 show that on average, First Nations fishing the Fraser River were allocated roughly 80 per cent of “Spring 5-2 and Summer 5-2,” the larger five-year-old chinook that have spent two years in fresh water.

During the same period, recreational fishermen on the Fraser were allocated 11 per cent.

 

 

 

Just Posted

Tsunami warning issued for coastal British Columbia

Warning issued following 8.0 earthquake off Kodiak, AK

UPDATE: Fuel truck hits train in Port Coquitlam, causing massive fire

CP Rail reporting no injuries, driver of truck is safe.

Mission RCMP recover 22 stolen vehicles and several firearms

Charges are still pending after police search two separate properties

Fraser Health asking taxpayers for millions more in health care capital funding

Health authority wants Fraser Valley taxpayers to triple annual contribution to $5.75 million

UPDATE: Brother of teen killed by stray bullet in Vancouver says the death left a void

Alfred Wong, 15, was gunned down while on his way home from dinner with his family

Testing the Google Arts & Culture app

Going face to face with art

Back to work: U.S. government shutdown ends after Democrats relent

Short-term spending measure means both sides could see another shutdown stalemate in three weeks

Man lives despite malfunctioning defibrillator at B.C. arena

A middle-aged man went into cardiac arrest after at game at Pitt Meadows Arena last Wednesday.

Cause of Northern B.C. seaplane crash released

TSB releases report on seaplane crash during a water landing in 2016 near First Nations community

Vancouver police crack down on pop-up pot vendors

Officers raided merchants’ tables on Robson Square late Sunday

Bell Media, NFL take appeal over Super Bowl ad rules to top court

At issue is a ban on substituting American ads with Canadian ones during the game’s broadcast

Crown seeks 4.5 years jail for B.C. woman convicted of counselling tax evasion

Debbie Anderson the latest from group to face jail for teaching debunked ‘natural person’ theory

Movie filmed in Castlegar B.C. opens Friday

Hollow in the Land starring Dianna Agron will be playing in select cinemas.

Semi rollover on Highway 3

Highway 3 is reduced to single-alternating lanes

Most Read