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.

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Surrey Eagles are currently seeking billet families for its players in advance of the 2020-‘21 BC Hockey League season. (Garrett James photo)
Surrey Eagles in ‘desperate’ need of billet families for BCHL season

COVID-19 pandemic has made finding homes for players difficult: billet co-ordinator

Surrey RCMP cruisers outside a Newton townhouse Tuesday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
UPDATE: Toddler in hospital, woman dead following stabbings at Surrey townhouse

Police say two-year-old was among victims found at townhouse complex in the 12700-block of 66 Avenue

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
OUR VIEW: Lenient courts aren’t helping

It’s hard to fault the palpable frustration of Metro Vancouver Transit Police

Renee
Bigger for 2020, online Surrey conference clicks with writers from around the world

Registrants from 17 countries for ‘SiWC At Home’ edition of the annual event

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson bottle-feeds a calf at a dairy farm in South Surrey Tuesday morning. (Aaron Hinks photo)
BC Liberal Leader makes stop in South Surrey

Business tax, mental health supports among topics addressed by Andrew Wilkinson

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Brody Peterson said he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Brody Peterson told The Gazette he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks RCMP recommend criminal charges after weekend party

Homeowner Brody Peterson said he’ll dispute tickets for refusing police instructions, alleged COVID violations

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
Kootenay Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Mail-in ballot from Elections BC (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
At least 26% of eligible voters have already cast a ballot, Elections BC says

Voters can cast a ballot until 8 p.m PST on Election Day

RCMP were called to an assault in the 23700-block of 110 Ave in Maple Ridge Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. (Curtis Kreklau/Special to The News)
PHOTOS: Assault in Maple Ridge sends three men to hospital

RCMP were called to a residence Tuesday night

A 2018 decision to fly a rainbow flag ended up costing the City of Langley $62,000 in legal fees (Langley Advance Times file)
Human rights win in rainbow flag fight cost B.C. city $62,000

“Lengthy and involved” process provoked by complaint

Most Read