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Local First Nation leaders affirm right to Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) harvest in Tyee Pool

DFO fisheries notice about possible FSC harvest in and around Tyee Pool stirs controversy
A group of Tyee Club members and guests fishing from rowboats in the Tyee Pool. File photo.

Representatives of two local First Nations say they are disappointed by some comments made in response to a Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) fishery notice informing anglers of their right to harvest chinook salmon in the Tyee Pool and surrounding waters.

A DFO fishery notice released on Aug. 12 informed recreational fishers that Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) harvest of Chinook salmon may occur in waters off Campbell River (subarea 13-5, specifically), which includes the Tyee Pool, famous for a recreational fishery using restricted tackle and non-motor-powered boats. According to the notice, the FSC harvest may use power boats during the day and gill nets between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.

After being posted to social media, the notice caused a stir, with some comments questioning the fairness of FSC rights, the scientific support for DFO policy and the sustainability of using gill nets to harvest salmon staging for spawning.

But the right to fish for FSC purposes is a right protected under Section 35 of the Constitution for designated Indigenous harvesters to catch what they require, including with the use of modern equipment. That right is communal, with FSC fishing licences issued to Indigenous Nations, which then may designate members to fish under it.

First Nations have had FSC access to the Campbell River and the Tyee Pool since the early 1990s, according to Lara Sloan, DFO communications advisor, in an email. But this is the first time a fishery notice has been released, she added.

However, the release — and the commotion in response to it — was unnecessary because We Wai Kum members are not planning FSC harvesting in the Tyee Pool, despite having the right to do so, said Chief Councillor Chris Roberts, in a press release.

“DFO jumped the gun and unnecessarily issued this release because currently there is no intention to exercise our fishing rights in the Tyee Pool, near the mouth of the Campbell River, so everyone is getting worked up over nothing,” said Roberts.

But in the same release, We Wai Kai Chief Councillor Ronnie Chickite said FSC harvest could become more frequent locally.

“We have not had to fish here recently because our people could harvest sufficient salmon throughout the territory and in Johnstone Strait,” said Chickite. “However, with the dire situation of Fraser River salmon, we are doing our part for conservation and not fishing those stocks. For these reasons expect to see us increasingly exercising our rights and resource stewardship obligations in multiple smaller river systems in our territory, the Campbell and Quinsam river system being one of the main ones.”

The DFO has been working directly with the Nations over the past two years to develop a fishing plan for access and methods of harvest in the Campbell and Quinsam rivers, including the Tyee Pool, said Sloan. This plan describes where, when and how fishing will take place, as well as the process for reporting chinook salmon that are caught.

“We have been working collaboratively with DFO to establish a better fishery plan and management of the resource for the future, but everyone must realize and respect that we have always had the right to harvest salmon in our territory and this includes the ability to do so in the so-called ‘Tyee Pool’,” said Roberts.

Members of the Tyee Club of British Columbia will continue to share the Tyee Pool in a safe and courteous manner that allows all users to enjoy the area, said Roger Gage, club president, in an email.

“We hope to work with the We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum First Nations in pursuit of our shared interest in ensuring that current and future salmon stocks for the Campbell and Quinsam River systems strengthen for future generations,” said Gage.

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