The Tsilhqot’in in B.C.’s Interior want a greater say in B.C.’s salmon fishery, said Tletinqox Chief and Tsilhqot’in National Government Chair Joe Alphonse.
Since February of this year, the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) has sent three separate letters to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans asking to meet.
So far they have not had a single reply.
“The last time they met with us was 1993 or 1994,” Alphonse told the Tribune.
“Every time there is an inquiry into the fisheries we put in a request to be a part of it, but that is never granted.”
There are a lot of issues to look at, not just the Chilko Lake salmon run, Alphonse said.
“If they are looking at why the Chilko Lake run is always coming in so strong, maybe they should meet with us. It is the only run on the Fraser River that produces a strong healthy run every year.”
This year the Tsilhqot’in are anticipating a “decent” salmon run and if they don’t get over a million fish it would be a disappointment.
“Over the last 10 years we’ve always got over a million,” Alphonse said. “If we don’t hit that mark that would be the first time.”
Alphonse credits the TNG’s strictly traditional dip net fishery for the continued strength of the Chilko salmon run.
“We do not condone a gillnet fishery,” he said. “Salmon have no chance against gillnet fishery when you stretch nets right across the river. If they removed gillnets from the river and fish finders from the big ocean fleets then maybe salmon will have a chance.”
With the dip net fishery, a person could fish for 20 hours straight and maybe only catch 10 fish — it is really a self-regulatory system, he added.
“It’s the most selective fishery you are going to find anywhere in the world, our native dip net fishing out here in the Chilcotin.”
To monitor the run, the TNG conducts a smolt project every spring to determine if there has been a large winter kill.
“That alters the plan on how many openings we can have,” Alphonse said.
The spawning grounds are in title lands so the federal government needs to come up with a process to ensure the Tsilhqot’in have input, Alphonse added.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans confirmed in an e-mail reply on Tuesday that there is a ministerial response letter to the Tsilhqot’in in its system, although there is no indication of when the letter will be sent.