First Nations, commercial, and recreational fishing groups have joined forces to help stave off any further decline of fish stocks on the Fraser River.
The Lower Fraser Collaborative Table (LFCT), with membership from 23 First Nations of the Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance, recreational fishing groups, and commercial reps from the Area E Harvest Commercial, united to help both Fraser salmon runs, as well as non-salmon species.
“Our people all remember the good old days when there were abundant salmon, sturgeon and steelhead, but today they are in a major crisis,” said Les Antone, a Kwantlen First Nation delegate of the Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance, and a founding member of the LFCT, in a news release. “We have to work together to rebuild these stocks while there is still time – and good management means we all have to make sacrifices together.”
Members ratified the LFCT’s official terms of reference on Tuesday, June 15,to “chart a new path to reconciliation” for harvesters of the Lower Fraser, with an emphasis on “collaboration and civil dialogue” to build trust, said the release.
“Considering the current situation with Fraser River salmon and non-salmon stocks – including Interior Fraser steelhead at extreme conservation concerns – it’s imperative that all user-groups work cooperatively to protect and rebuild stocks,” said Rod Clapton, president of the BC Federation of Drift Fishers.
This way the sectors can work respectfully together “to ensure these priceless resources are preserved for future generation,” Clapton added.
Working together to set up the collaborative table for the past three years, the members say top priorities include: conservation, sustainable access for harvesting, and better communication.
Darrel McEachern, a life-long commercial fisherman, said he is “optimistic and enthused” by the creation of LFCT and “honoured” to represent commercial fishermen on the Fraser.
“There is a real need for increased communication and cooperation” among the various harvesting sectors, and this effort aims to protect and enhance Fraser salmon runs and maximize the benefit of the sustainable harvest of salmon for all users.
Round tables like this have proven successful in other B.C. communities, McEachern said, and it will be successful for the Lower Fraser River as well.
“The issues confronting us today are beyond our governments’ ability to successfully deal with alone, and the LFCT has a very important role to play in the future.”
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