First Nations to blame for salmon collapses?

In drifting around the Internet today I came across a blog (Jack’s Newswatch) mentioning Canada’s November announcement regarding the judicial inquiry into Fraser sockeye disappearance. In some of the comments to the posting there was the usual suggestion that First Nations people must be a big part of the problem of disappearing salmon. As I mentioned in a previous posting the numbers on this issue shed some light… Here is my comment reproduced:

some good comments here – however one significant correction. Media over the years (and other folks) have done a brilliant job of pandering the idea that First Nation salmon fishing (”traditional food fishery”) is having a devastating impact on salmon stocks.

It’s not a tough perspective to market – those of us that spend time on BC rivers see First Nation people with various nets, dip nets, and whatever else. Memories of media stories and misinformation abound – and assumptions are easily formed.

The actual numbers are tough to ignore though (an important component always missing from any media reports).

Commercial and sport catch of salmon in BC: approximately 95% of total.

First Nation catch of salmon in BC: approximately 5% (and this is on the high side).

These numbers do not account for the significant catch of BC-bound salmon in high-sea fisheries outside of Canada’s 200-mile zone throughout the North Pacific. (who is counting this catch?)

This also does not even start down the complex road of the legal environment in Canada in which First Nation catch is allocated – i.e. aboriginal rights and title.
To put things in perspective. Some scientists (Northcote and Atagi 1997) estimate that in the 19th century 120-160 million salmon returned to the Fraser river in a good year (the paper is from a book called Pacific Salmon and their ecosystems: Status and future options – you can find a good chunk of the book in Google books, as it’s about $250 otherwise).

We are now seeing salmon runs that are 90% less than that and these sorts of numbers are seen throughout the range of Pacific Salmon. That’s about 100 years to decimate salmon populations.

Might need a bit more than a judicial inquiry on just the Fraser.

The last twenty years has shown that judicial reviews and numerous scathing reports from the Auditor General has not changed much in the bureaucratic behemoth known as Fisheries and Oceans.

It probably can’t be stated enough that this is the same institution that ‘managed’ East Coast Cod into oblivion – including the countless communities that relied on that fishery.

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