Northwest B.C. First Nations affected by Alaskans catching salmon headed for Canadian waters have joined the list expressing outrage over the actions of the neighbouring U.S state.
The Skeena Fisheries Commission, a Skeena watershed organization consisting of First Nations along the Skeena River, called on Canadian officials to convene an emergency meeting of the Pacific Salmon Commission before the 2022 fishing season.
In a Jan. 26 joint statement, the Gitxsan, Gitanyow, and Wet’suwet’en First Nations are calling for swift action from the government to protect their constitutional fishing rights of the communities along the Skeena and Nass rivers.
“Many of the Canada-bound fish stocks being caught in Alaska are at critically low levels and if this fishery trend continues it could push some stocks into extinction,” said the nations in the statement.
The nations’ concerns follows a report published earlier this month, commissioned by the Skeena Wild Conservation Trust and Watershed Watch Salmon Society, which estimated up to 75 per cent of the 800,000 sockeye harvested in southeast Alaska last year were bound for B.C.’s north coast rivers, including the Skeena and Nass.
With most First Nation communities having curtailed food and ceremonial fisheries for salmon conservation, the Skeena Fisheries Commission said it was disheartened by what it called the reckless and exploitative actions of Alaskan commercial fishers.
“Our people have gone to extreme lengths to preserve the small numbers of Kitwanga sockeye that still exist, and to find that the Alaskan fishery is exploiting these same fish at extremely high numbers is very disheartening,” said chief Malii (Glen Williams) of Gitanyow.