Designated fishers

Dry rack fishery on the Fraser River shut down earlier than expected

Dry rack fishers from several Sto:lo communities including Tzeachten, Skwah and Squiala were engaged in the ancient tradition last week.

The hot, dry winds of the Fraser Canyon are perfect for air drying sockeye salmon.

Dry rack fishers and their families from several Sto:lo communities including Tzeachten, Skwah, Squiala and more were engaged in the ancient tradition last week.

That is until federal fisheries shut them down after only a few days of fishing.

A communal fishing licence for dry rack fishing was issued July 10 by DFO to Lower Fraser bands. The sockeye were to be caught either in set nets or dip nets, for food, social, and ceremonial purposes.

The dry rack licence allowed certain designated fishers, and their helpers, to harvest fish from the Fraser, processing and drying them on racks from fish camps above the river.

The fishery was a little earlier than usual, but given the ideal weather earlier this month, it should have even started the week before, said Ernie Victor, fisheries manager for Sto:lo Nation, and co-chair of the Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance.

“The dry rack fishers, the families who carry on this tradition, are unique,” said Victor. “It’s the way they dry the fish. What they’ve been holding onto is our culture.”

The fishing licence was supposed to be in effect for a week, until July 17. But the special fishery was actually shut down earlier than expected, after only a few days, because the sockeye run size was downgraded by the Fraser River Panel on July 12.

The early Stuart run is quite threatened.

“It’s always a guessing game,” said Victor, about the run size estimates that dictate fishery openings.

The thing is that the best time for dry rack fishing is early on in the run, when the first fish tend to be smaller and thinner than later, and the bees are still hibernating, said Victor.

It’s less than ideal on the peak of the run, or in other words, during the times when the “bees will eat your fish.”

The whole dry rack process should be a little easier and more smooth going than it actually is, he said.

“From an indigenous person’s standpoint, when you have something that’s so sacred, like traditional dry rack fishing, you think it just shouldn’t be so hard.”

The process is “way more bureaucratic” than it needs to be, with scientific testing and modelling dictating the fishery openings that are allowed.

“Of course if you have a million dollar venture like the commercial fleet when they get an opening, it all runs smoothly. It’s green light, go.”

Even as some Sto:lo fishers were preparing their fish camps early last week, some said they spotted undercover DFO enforcement officers with binoculars watching their movements, as well as some posing as fisher buyers, presumably in an effort to get the fishers to sell them sockeye, which is illegal.

“We’re talking about a group of families trying to keep their culture alive. They don’t need any additional barriers or obstacles.”

First Nations are not against conservation in any way, he added, or the effort to build strong runs with fishery management decisions.

“But we have the Yale treaty, and we have the slow decision making process,” he said. “We’re not listening to, or given the ability to follow, Mother Nature the way we should.”

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno

Just Posted

Mathieu Caron leads Chilliwack Chiefs to shutout win over Wenatchee Wild

Chilliwack’s netminder stopped 29 pucks Saturday night in a BCHL Showcase game at Prospera Centre.

Chilliwack Chiefs erase three goal deficit in overtime win

Down 3-0 to the Cowichan Capitals, the Chiefs came back to win 4-3 in the BCHL Showcase match.

Chilliwack man feeling helpless about puppy stolen while at church

Evidence of neighbour trespassing and accusing him of dog neglect not enough for RCMP

UPDATE: Missing Chilliwack man has been found

Chilliwack RCMP is thanking the public for keeping an eye out

UPDATED: Chilliwack councillor’s expenses being sent to the RCMP

Decision to have expenses audited and shared with RCMP taken at special meeting of council

Conservation officer frees B.C. deer from flotation gear mishap

BC Conservation Officer Service is reminding residents to keep backyards clear of entanglements

Lions earn stunning 35-32 OT win over Ticats

Epic comeback lifts B.C. past Hamilton in CFL thriller

Czarnik nets 3 as Flames dump Canucks 5-2

Calgary picks up exhibition win over Vancouver

Ottawa to name new ambassador for women, peace and security, Freeland says

Chrystia Freeland also confirmed Canada would spend about $25 million to fund number of initiatives

‘A little bright spot:’ Ottawa residents rescue dog trapped beneath rubble

Freelance journalist says rescue of a dog trapped under rubble was happy ending amid chaos in Ottawa

B.C. deaf community wants different sign languages on federal accessibility act

Advocates also want Indigenous Sign Language to be recognized on the Indigenous Language Act

Remainder of Vancouver Whitecaps season filled with ‘must-win’ games: coach

With Vancouver currently sitting four points out of a post-season spot, each contest is crucial

VIDEO: B.C.-born firefighter remembered by MP in emotional speech

Family asks first responders to look after one another in wake of suicide, growing concerns of PTSD

Airline has ‘close call’ with drone while en route to B.C. airport

Jazz Aviation reported the drone sighting near Vancouver to the RCMP and Transport Canada

Most Read