Citing Ottawa’s mismanagement of wild Pacific salmon, the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs are establishing their own crisis management team to act in an advisory role to the Gitxsan Government. Members will be invited from all sectors, including First Nations, commercial, recreational and both municipal and band councils.
The announcement Dec. 6 comes as the Hereditary Chiefs have also proclaimed an immediate closure in their territory of the Skeena recreational fisheries, in advance of the 2019 angling season.
In a press release the chiefs say DFO routinely ignores fishing plan recommendations to close the fisheries in the interest of conservation by the Skeena First Nations Technical Committee and Gitxsan Watershed Authority. They say there was no legitimate data to support DFO’s opening of the 2018 recreational fisheries.
“This drastic action is necessary to ensure fish for future generations and to stop DFO actions that cause over fishing, “says Catherine Blackstock (Geel). “It is purely mismanagement for economic purposes.”
The chiefs issued a similar announcement in the 2018 season. Hereditary Chief Cliff Sampare (Simogyat O’yee) said the Gitxsan feel the declaration of a closed fishery is supported by the Supreme Court of Canada’s Delgamuukw Case, a ruling in part against the province to grant the Gitxsan aboriginal title on the land based on evidence of oral histories.
Because the Gitxsan are still in treaty negotiations, Sampare said the federal government however excludes the Gitxsan from meaningful involvement in natural resource decisions.
DFO spokesperson at the time said the department does not recognize Gitxsan fishing closures.
“[It] is not a DFO closure and will not be enforced by DFO fishery officers. However, anyone thinking of fishing in the area should be aware of the potential for conflict.”
Sampare stressed their position is a non-violent action. Fishers will be treated as trespassers and asked to leave.
On the recent closure announcement, Sampare asks the governments of Canada and B.C. to join their crisis management team. “We understand that this industry is worth at least $50 million [annually]. We will work together. Until then all must stay away.”