I write in response to the article authored by Binny Paul (“Gitxsan Nation extends ban for non-Indigenous fishing permit holders across their territory”) which appeared in The Interior News on April 29. Your readers deserve a broader perspective.
Gitxsan chiefs state that sportfishing breaks traditional laws, they do not play with their fish and catch and release causes higher fatality.
I challenge any of the chiefs to produce a shred of credible scientific evidence on that fatality claim. Higher than what? Fishing with gill nets where non-target or non-preferred species are commonly discarded? How many pictures of long unattended and/or abandoned First Nations’ nets full of fish would they like me to offer in evidence?
Do the chiefs understand it isn’t and never has been recreational fishers who are responsible for conservation issues surrounding Skeena salmon and steelhead stocks?
Are they familiar with the history of the commercial fishing industry targeting Skeena stocks? Do they ever acknowledge the participation rate of their own people (now 50 per cent or more) in the interception fisheries in the Skeena approaches and tidal reaches of the river itself as Skeena origin fish attempt to reach their spawning destination?
Do they ever acknowledge their own in-river food fishing gill nets and the damage and waste inherent in their deployment? Can they show us credible, species-specific records of the numbers of food fish their gill nets harvest outside any commercial fishery openings?
Perhaps the chiefs should examine estimates of commercial and First Nations catches (i.e. mortality) relative to recreational fishery catches of salmon and steelhead. Do the chiefs even know the origin of the gill nets they now use (i.e. the “Barricades Agreemen,” not some ancestral technique employed since time immemorial).
Do they know the origin of the red flag claim that catch and release practicing anglers are playing with their food (i.e. court proceedings with respect to the Cowichan River and early British gentry descendent fly fishers)?
Do they ever acknowledge they participate in the same extractive industries they criticize for compromising and destroying fish habitat in their traditional territories?
My point is we are all in this together. If the Gitxsan or any other First Nation(s) in this province ever want to build bridges to a future they need to understand and speak all sides of their story.
Media does no one any service by publishing poorly researched material and biased claims of one side or another.
Fisheries Biologist, retired
Author, Skeena Steelhead – Unknown Past, Uncertain Future