By Tara Sprickerhoff
Tribune Staff Writer
Representatives of local First Nations bands helped transfer almost 200 early Stuart sockeye salmon on their way north to the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council last Wednesday, July 24.
Williams Lake Indian Band councillor Willie Sellars and Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nations chief David Archie and councillor Allan Adams, alongside the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), helped move the 200 salmon Wednesday afternoon.
The early Stuart socket salmon were seized by the DFO who had caught several groups of people illegally fishing the early Stuart sockeye salmon run, said Stu Cartwright, area chief for the B.C. Interior and the Yukon with the DFO.
Currrently, only Chinook salmon are allowed to be fished on the river.
The sockeye were taken from the Fraser River in the St’at’imc territory near Lillooet. Once seized the DFO froze the fish and then turned them over to the St’at’imc people, who organized the transfer north to the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council.
The early Stuart salmon run was open for only two days this year because of depleted stocks, said Gord Sterritt, Fisheries and Natural Resource Manager of the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council.
Fishing was closed for the salmon when it became apparent that barely enough salmon would make it north for the food, social and ceremonial purposes of the Carrier Sekani people north of Fort St. James and Stuart Lake.
The early Stuart sockeye are the only salmon run that makes it north to the traditional territory of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council and they are an important resource for First Nations in the area.
Other First Nations along the Fraser River are able to take advantage of later salmon runs throughout the year.
The St’at’imc and Nlka’pamux people decided to send the fish on to their original destination to be shared amongst community members and elders in the Stuart and Takla lake areas.
“It’s important because it’s the only fish that they get,” said Chief Michelle Edwards of the Cayoose Creek Band. “I remember over 25 years ago that the elders there were crying because they didn’t have enough fish to fish.”
“To be able to bring that back to them is everything,” she said.
The DFO transported the fish in several large coolers, which were transferred from one truck to another in front of the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council in Williams Lake.
They were delivered to a representative of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council in Prince George who would bring them farther north where they will be distributed amongst those who don’t have the opportunity to fish themselves.
The individuals involved in catching the fish are under investigation to determine if charges will be laid, said Cartwright.