The Northern Shuswap Tribal Council (NSTC) Fisheries program
Fisheries management has always been and is a very important component of Northern Shuswap culture. Like many other First Nations the NStQ rely on the fisheries resource for food, social and ceremonial purposes. Salmon are also an important trading and economic commodity of the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw culture but conservation of the resource continues to be a key objective in the practices and beliefs of the NStQ. The NStQ proudly continue to harvest salmon from their traditional areas on the both the Fraser and Chilcotin Rivers and do so 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 for the ecosystem.
The role of the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council (NSTC) Fisheries Program is to manage the fisheries resource for the four NSTC communities (Williams Lake Indian Band, Canoe Creek Indian Band, Canim Lake Indian Band and the Soda Creek Indian Band), and partially does this through an agreement with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Through this Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy agreement, in addition to other projects that are implemented by the NSTC Fisheries Department is increasing the communities’ capacity to manage and preserve the traditional importance of this resource.
Conservation of the fisheries resource is the top priority for the Fisheries Program 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 1 direct and 4 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 program’s main focus through AFS has 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 and the Community Fisheries Representative Program has been implemented to provide capacity at the community level and increase communications between the 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 requirements to inform management decisions for our fisheries and conservation goals within the NStQ traditional territory, the NSTC Fisheries Department applies for funding through various other 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, culvert replacements. The NSTC and Community Fisheries Reps 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 within the Fraser Watershed. The NStQ supports the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance which provides technical support to the NSTC projects and works with the NStQ to ensure local objectives are being achieved. Fraser River Aboriginal Fisheries Secretariat is another organization that the NSTC are involved with 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 in the NSTC Fisheries Program has the ultimate goal of continually protecting fish in NSTC’s traditional areas and increasing our involvement in the management of those fish.
Fishing is part of the traditional way of life for Secwepemc people. Practicing “fishing safety” is extremely important to ensure a fun, safe activity for everyone. NSTC_Fishing Safety Poster-2016
For further information please contact:
Andrew Meshue, Fisheries Manager
Ph: 250.392.7361, Ext.211