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Aug 20 2010

DFO – recalculating First Nations salmon – EDITED

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I am re-posting my opinion about the First Nation’s Protest over sport fishing in Osoyoos to clarify my language. I received a very concerned e-mail from someone who knows that DFO field workers support the Osoyoos First Nation by supplying a fishing boat, hatchery fish, fish counting and tagging as well as collecting dead fish. He was upset that I called the “bean counters” “fish counters”. I want to assure him that I meant accountants not the DFO field workers who are counting fish.  I apologize for saying that and here is my revised post:

The recent opening for sport fishing in the South Okanagan deserves another look. According to the Osoyoos Times, DFO did the math and there are so many salmon they let the tourists have a go at them. DFO is aware that only two out of every one hundred fish that hatch in a river will return to spawn.

“This return exceeds the 60,000 sockeye past Wells Dam indicated in the South Coast Integrated Fisheries Management Plan for meeting spawner objectives, providing for First Nations food, social and ceremonial fisheries and allowing a recreation fishery opportunity.”

I would like DFO to know that it takes 200 salmon to feed one First Nation family over winter. When DFO set a base line of 60,000 fish for food, social and ceremonial First Nations use as well as spawning and sport fishing their estimate was not based on the actual needs of First Nation Families. Do the math!

On DFO’s allowance of 60,000 fish, only 300 families would have had sufficient food this winter. That doesn’t leave any fish for sport or spawning. How many First Nation families rely on the Osoyoos fishery? Less than 300? Perhaps someone can post that information in the comment

I stated that something is very wrong with DFO’s bean counters  – [“Bean counters” are generally thought of as people who calculate the cost of various corporate interests such as: the cost of making a car or the financial risk of a dangerous car. (Does it cost more to fix the car or pay the people who will be hurt by an exploding gas tank?)  They review efficiency numbers to determine if people can be more productive in a factory – (do more in less time). Bean Counters have not until recently factored a company’s social or environmental obligation.  so I sincerely apologize for any confusion – “Bean counters” do not refer to the hard working DFO field workers who are madly trying to count the fabulous and abundant salmon spawn that is going on all over BC and in other places in Canada.

It looks like there will be more than 60,000 fish to harvest – hopefully enough for all First Nation people to survive the winter months.

My point is that reaching a base line number of 60,000 fish and opening a sports fishery is not supported by the math.

For the last three years, DFO’s policy opened a Native fishery on the Fraser for only three days. That resulted in near starvation for the Siska band last winter. How did that happen? How did DFO decide that three days was sufficient time for First Nations people to catch their necessary winter supply of salmon?  Was the number pulled from a hat or did they base it on the same criteria used in Osoyoos?  One First Nation family needs 200 salmon to survive so DFO needs to use that number to determine First Nation needs before opening a sport fishery or closing the commercial fishery below the Fraser.

If 300 families take DFO’s predicted 60,000 fish – what’s left for ceremony or spawning? Do you think First Nations will celebrate that? First Nations consider the salmon part of their family and it’s likely they’ll go hungry than see a river without a salmon spawn.

So it appears that DFO is without the necessary information to make a rational decision upon which to base their fishing policy. Since the First Nations have the first right to fish – DFO violates the Canadian Constitution, International Laws and the Charter of Rights.

I am ashamed of Canada’s history with First Nations people. The more I learn and watch – the more I see the need for change.  Let’s hope that everyone catching fish for dinner will remember that First Nations need to catch dinner for the whole winter.

The Crown has custody of the fish but First Nations have a lien on that fish and we must see that First Nations have enough before we go fishing.  I want DFO to base policy on the real needs of real people keeping in mind the social and economic consequence of a food shortage.

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2 comments

  1. Brian

    Typical fear mongering by you, Priscilla. I highly doubt that one of the wealthiest bands in the province will be going hungry this year. Give me a break. Also, you should know that DFO (through PICFI) has been helping the local band in Osoyoos catch their own sockeye. Yes…before any recreational fisheries commenced in the area, DFO has been helping local First Nations catch their own sockeye! DFO has even supplied the seine boat. This initiative is geared to build capacity within the band so they can have the skills to catch fish using boat like the one used as well as market their catch – providing employment and local pride. The total catch by the recreational sector in this fishery is peanuts compared to what is taken in just one net set. The salmon are to be shared by everyone.

    You also failed to mentioned that DFO and the province were partners with local First Nations to help rebuild the the Okanagan Sockeye. Guess where those young sockeye were hatched and reared before being released? That’s right….that DFO hatchery close to where you live. Have you ever visited that facility or even talked to anybody at DFO about this initiative? Somehow you failed to mention ALL of this in your one-sided post.

    You also have no idea what goes on with stock assessment or management. I encourage you to leave your computer for awhile and take a trip to the Lower Shuswap River this month and actually TALK to the DFO crews doing enumeration work on chinook and sockeye. You might begin to appreciate the hard work they put into this on our behalf.

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    1. admin

      Hello Brian,
      Sport fishers often think that “The salmon are to be shared by everyone” but Canada’s Courts disagree.

      I am happy to hear that the Government is finally doing it’s job by assisting the First Nations to fish

      I’m sorry my post was not clear enough – DFO needs to base their harvesting calculations on some real numbers. Since it takes 200 fish to feed one Aboriginal family over winter and since “Aboriginal peoples have the right to be the first to access fish before commercial and recreational fishers” DFO has erred in setting a target of 60,000 fish before opening a sport fishery.

      How many First Nation families are there in that Band? Even if the Band has only 200 families, the 60,000 fish are not enough to provide for first nations food as well as ceremonial as well as a commercial fishery as well as spawner as well as a sport fishery.

      Had the actual numbers of fish been around 60,000 the Band families would have had to live without their traditional and cultural diet with a sport fishery taking what was not theirs to take.

      The DFO/Provincial partnership with First Nations was unrelated to my original post but now that you mention it: What kind of partnership is it when one partner decides another partner’s profits based on incorrect accounting?

      That the sockeye were hatched and reared before being released in the Hatchery near me is also irrelevant to my post except to say that it was wrong to allow salmon to go extinct in the first place which necessitates fish hatcheries.

      I’m sure that all the people working at DFO and the fish hatchery are dedicated to their jobs and I hope they are paid a living wage with benefits for their hard work.

      You are right that I have no idea about “Stock assessment and management” except to say expected returns for First Nations has to be based on First Nations actual need (whether the Band is wealthy or not)

      I would be very happy to meet with DFO and take a take a trip to the Lower Shuswap River this month and actually TALK to the DFO crews doing enumeration work on chinook and sockeye.

      I very much appreciate all the hard workdone by DFO crews in fact I have asked the Government to hire more people to work in the field. However, you are mistaken, DFO is not working on “our behalf” DFO works on behalf of the salmon and those salmon do not belong to the non native community, sport fishers, “us” or DFO.

      I will repeat from a previous post on the Cohen Commission hearings: “Aboriginal peoples have the right to be the first to access fish before commercial and recreational fishers”

      Even if the sport fishing numbers were just “peanuts” in comparison to the fish taken by First Nations – It’s wrong to take that which you don’t have the right to take or in DFO’s case – to give.

      First Nations People have legal title to their cultural diet of fish – 200 fish are needed to feed one family – get your calculator and do the math then let me and DFO have the numbers to be met before opening a sport fishery.
      Thanks for your comment

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