TŜILHQOT’IN NATIONAL GOVERNMENT
253 – 4th Avenue North – Williams Lake, BC V2G 4T4 – Phone (250) 392-3918 – Fax (250) 398-5798
Tŝilhqot’in Nation Announces Full Closure of Steelhead Fisheries
Williams Lake, BC (March 20, 2018): Due to immediate threat, the Tŝilhqot’in National Government (TNG) has closed all fishing of the endangered Chilcotin River Steelhead Trout. Given the 81% population decline, the Tŝilhqot’in Nation is forgoing their collective Aboriginal right to fish Steelhead for food, social and ceremonial purposes. Steelhead fishing is a hugely important Tŝilhqot’in cultural practice, so closing this fishery means that Tŝilhqot’in aboriginal rights are already being infringed.
After an Emergency Assessment this year, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessed the Chilcotin River Steelhead Trout as “Endangered” and recommended an Emergency Order under the Species at Risk Act. The COSEWIC panel identified two major causes of decline – a. Ocean conditions and b. Bycatch from commercial fisheries.
Given these dire numbers, the TNG has also called on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to eliminate all bycatch from the commercial Pacific salmon fisheries. DFOs continued mismanagement of the Chilcotin River Steelhead Trout must stop for the survival of this stock.
TNG also expects that both the Federal and Provincial governments, including the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, will engage in a Nation-to-Nation conversation with the Tŝilhqot’in about the future of the Chilcotin River Steelhead along with the impact that decisions may have on Tŝilhqot’in Aboriginal rights.
Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman, Tŝilhqot’in National Government:
“Our Steelhead Trout are facing a serious crisis right now that cannot be ignored. We are imposing an immediate closure on the fisheries for our people. All sectors within government and business need to take this decline in population numbers very seriously. The Tŝilhqot’in territory is at the end of the line for the Steelhead migration, meaning that we have to make the most sacrifices in protecting this population. We call on all levels of government to improve the health of our Steelhead.”
FACTS from COSEWIC Report:
- COSEWIC conducted an Emergency Assessment of The Chilcotin River Steelhead Trout on January 10, 2018
- There are 58 confirmed Chilcotin River Steelhead Trout – an 81% decline over 18 years.
- The estimated mortality rate from all bycatch in commercial fisheries is in the range of 15-25% annually.
- The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will be making a decision in the coming weeks about whether steelhead bycatch will be allowed, through the approval of DFO’s Integrated Fisheries Management Plan.
- The Thompson River Steelhead are also facing severe declines and were included in the COSEWIC Emergency Assessment.