UPDATE: Gitxsan food fishery closure imminent

The Gitksan Watershed Authority is urging an immediate closure of food fishing on the Skeena River to ensure future stock returns.

A July 31, 2013 Gitxsan food fishery closure set last Friday has been postponed over concerns from locals about getting enough preserved Sockeye for the coming winter.

The alteration of the closure has yet to be set by the Gitksan Watershed Authority, but the organization is recommending the suspension before a federal government imposed closure is issued.

“The Department of Fisheries and Oceans have told us that they will be closing all food fishing in the Skeena,” Charlie Muldon, GWA technician, said.

“We’ve heard from a lot of people that a decision to voluntarily shut our food fishing down would show leadership in conservation in the north.”

More than 600, 000 Sockeye salmon were expected to return to the Skeena River this year, but so far the count, which is believed to have reached its peak, has just passed the 200, 000 mark at the Tyee fish station, Muldon said.

Although most Gitxsan are in agreement about the closure not all are on board.

“I haven’t been able to deliver anything to Gitxanmaax elders,” Walter Wilson Jr., who is tasked with providing many Gitanmaax elders with salmon every year, said.

“There will be many that go hungry if we shut down too soon.”

Chris Barnes, GWA co-ordinator, warns about future Sockeye stocks in the Skeena if food fishing continues.

“In four years we might not have any Sockeye at all if we carry on as we are,” Barnes said.

It is still unknown why the Sockeye runs are so low this year, but Muldon offered his opinion.

“This is the smallest run in at least 50 years,” Muldon said.

“Ocean survival rates play the biggest role I think.”

A final food fishing closure date has yet to be set by the GWA.

For the continuing story check The Interior News on Wednesday, Aug. 7.

 

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