No proof of illegal salmon sales by Natives, but feds believe they're guilty
Fisheries authorities don’t have proof of the alleged illegal sale of salmon by aboriginal fishers.
Scott Coultish, regional chief of intelligence and investigation services for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, made this admission at the afternoon hearing on Wednesday (May 18) of a federal inquiry looking into the depletion of salmon stocks in the Fraser River.
However, Coultish maintained that fisheries authorities believe that most of the salmon caught for food, social, and ceremonial purposes by First Nations groups from the Fraser in the 2005 fishery season were sold commercially.
This assertion that the salmon may have been illegally sold was backed by Randy Nelson, regional director of conservation and protection, at the same hearing by the Cohen commission.
Both Coultish and Nelson appeared before the commission the previous day (May 17).
Among the exhibits included in the May 17 hearing were two Fisheries and Oceans Canada reports about fish intended for food, social, and ceremonial use by Natives.
The first was a memorandum addressed to the department’s deputy minister and dated June 6, 2006. The document noted that at the end of the fishing season in September 2005, there were about 1.9 million pounds or approximately 345,000 pieces of food, social, and ceremonial salmon in 110 cold storage plants throughout the Lower Mainland.
The paper further reported that 60 to 70 percent of the fish “have now been removed from cold storage”.
The second document, an intelligent assessment paper about a department operation code-named Project Ice Storm, stated that food, social, and ceremonial salmon was being laundered into commercial markets.
The document dated November 27, 2006, talked about door-to-door sales, as well as back door sales to restaurants and fish establishments.
Coultish and Nelson testified that fisheries authorities hold the belief that most of the stocks in cold storage were intended for sale in the commercial market but there was no evidence to back this up.