Fisheries management has always been a very important component of Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw (NStQ) culture. Like many other First Nations, the NStQ rely on fish for food, and social and ceremonial purposes. Salmon have also been an important trading and economic commodity of Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw culture, and conservation and stewardship of the resource continues to be a key objective. The NStQ proudly continue to harvest salmon from their traditional areas on both the Fraser and Chilcotin Rivers, in the same manner that their ancestors did, by utilizing dip nets. The lakes and streams are also important to the NStQ, where trout and other species of freshwater fish are harvested for food, and managed within the ecosystem.
The role of the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council (NSTC) Fisheries Department is to manage the fisheries resource for the four NSTC communities (Williams Lake First Nation, Stswecem’c Xget’tem, Canim Lake Band and the Xat’súll First Nation). This is partially done through an agreement with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Through this Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy (AFS) agreement, in addition to other projects that are implemented by the NSTC Fisheries Department, the communities’ capacity to manage and preserve the traditional importance of this resource is improving.
Conservation of the fisheries resource is the top priority for the Fisheries Department and we are being increasingly pro-active in conservation management for salmon and resident fish populations. To help guide the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), NStQ Chiefs supported the implementation of six Management Principles laid out by the Fraser Watershed First Nations to ensure the conservation of not only sockeye but chinook, coho and pink salmon as well. The objective of these principles is to measure DFO’s management effectiveness in post-season reviews and to place the foundation for a fundamental shift in DFO management regimes from a mega-stock management system to a system designed to protect weak salmon stocks. The six supported Management Principles are as follows:
- Salmon stocks must be managed for ecosystems, not solely human consumption;
- Harvests should never exceed one-half of a stock in mixed stock fisheries;
- Harvesting more than one-half of a stock should only be allowed if this extra harvest occurs close to or in the natal stream and, only if it is proven safe to do so;
- Harvest plans should be set to protect the weakest stock within a timing group;
- Any conservation and harvest management plan discussed with First Nations is without prejudice to our Aboriginal Rights and responsibilities in relation to the fisheries resource;
- Any conservation and harvest management plan discussed with First Nations is without prejudice to Treaty negotiations and any future plans to exercise our rights to the fisheries resource.
The NSTC Fisheries Program provides some certainty for employment of two direct, and four indirect staff on a yearly basis. Depending on work availability and funding there can be up to 30 persons directly involved in the NSTC Fisheries Program on a seasonal basis.
The NSTC’s Fisheries Department’s main focuses, through the AFS, have been the Community Fisheries Representative and Catch Monitor Projects. The Catch Monitor project is an annual program to collect FSC catch data from the NStQ fisheries for the purposes of informing management. The Community Fisheries Representative Program has been implemented to provide capacity at the community level, and increase communications among community members, the NSTC and DFO. Other projects implemented through the AFS program are the Quesnel Watershed Chinook and Coho Enumeration, as well as the Odd-year Pink Enumeration on the Fraser and Quesnel Rivers.
Each year additional projects are identified that can enhance the data that inform management decisions for our fisheries and conservation goals within the NStQ traditional territory. The NSTC Fisheries Department applies for funding through various funding agencies to implement these projects. The projects vary from stock assessment (Churn Creek Fishwheel, Quesnel DIDSON and chinook/coho enumerations) as well as for habitat restoration work, culvert assessments, irrigation ditch assessments, and culvert replacements. The NSTC and Community Fisheries Representatives also have an interest in projects that involve resident non-anadromous species, such as Rainbow Trout, Kokanee, Eastern Brook Trout, Whitefish, Bull Trout and Burbot.
The NStQ are also involved in numerous processes and organizations withi
n the Fraser Watershed. The NStQ supports the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance, which provides technical support to NSTC projects and works with the NStQ to ensure local objectives are being achieved. The Fraser River Aboriginal Fisheries Secretariat is another organization with which the NSTC is involved at the executive level as well as participation in the communication processes. Most recently, the NStQ have become involved with fisheries management at the international level, as a result of the NSTC Fisheries Manager being nominated and accepted to the Southern Panel of the Pacific Salmon Commission. The Pacific Salmon Commission is the body formed by the governments of Canada and the United States to implement the Pacific Salmon Treaty.
The NStQ are also involved with the First Nations Fisheries Council and Inter-Tribal Organization through the support of the southern and northern Secwepemc Chiefs to ensure the Secwepemc are represented at those levels.
All work undertaken by the NSTC Fisheries department has the ultimate goal of continually protecting fish in NSTC’s traditional areas and increasing our involvement in the management of those fish.
For further information please contact:
Senior Stewardship/Fisheries Manager