Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs pushes for moratorium on chinook salmon fisheries
Favoured by First Nations, nonaboriginal fishers, as well as the iconic-but-endangered orcas of the West Coast, the king of salmon—the chinook—is one big fish of an issue that the federal government may have to tackle soon.
In a recent letter to federal fisheries and oceans minister Keith Ashfield, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs called for a stop to all nonaboriginal fisheries on early-spring chinook bound for and in the Fraser River.
The Native leaders' group also told Ashfield that it will "encourage" all First Nations to cease fishing this largest of the Pacific salmon species "to mirror this moratorium".
According to the letter, of which a copy was obtained by the Straight, these measures will help in the recovery of chinook stocks that have been in decline.
Recreational fisher Gerry Kristianson isn't anticipating any immediate move to restrict harvests.
The chair of the Sport Fishing Advisory Board, a body that advises Fisheries and Oceans Canada, noted that the chinook issue is a complex one, and that's partly because government doesn't really know yet how many orcas it wants to see in the future.
"One of the major issues with respect to the protection of killer whales is ensuring that they have adequate food to eat, and fortunately or unfortunately, they seem to particularly like chinook salmon," Kristianson told the Straight by phone. "And of course, chinook are the favoured salmon of recreational anglers, and so clearly you need to work out how you can provide for the needs of both whales and humans."
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is holding a consultation for an action plan to support the recovery of the endangered orca. A meeting will take place Thursday (February 9) from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Vancouver Maritime Museum.
Gwen Barlee, policy director for the Wilderness Committee, plans to attend the meeting. "We're going to be watching very carefully and contributing because the scientists know what the killer whales need," Barlee told the Straight by phone. "They need to have access to prey species, salmon. And they need to have clean water because toxins accumulate in their bladder. They also need to have peace and quiet."
Fisheries and Oceans Canada did not make a spokesperson available for comment before deadline.