Since its beginning in 1993, the CSTC Fisheries Program has accomplished many goals. Several members of local communities have received training; in class and on the job. Many of these trainees have returned year after year, providing CSTC with continuity, capacity building and growing expertise of the many fisheries projects. Our core funding still comes through the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy (AFS) via Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). A major change has been in the amount of time DFO staff is required to be on site assisting with set-up, data collection and equipment operation. CSTC now has several Senior Fisheries Technicians, who are running projects with little supervision. Aside from the AFS funding, we seek funding from numerous other sources. These include Species at Risk (SARA), Federal sources (such as Environment Canada), Prince George Nechako Aboriginal Employment and Training Association (PGNAETA), Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance (UFFCA) and other organizations.
This year we will have several projects occurring, many being similar to previous years.
April-May: Nechako White Sturgeon brood collection
May-June: White Sturgeon egg collection and fertilization. Egg hatching and juvenile rearing at hatchery in Vanderhoof.
June: Release of brood stock. Telemetry surveys for juvenile and adult Sturgeon. Juvenile monitoring. Community meetings
July: Early Stuart (Middle River, Takla Lake) sockeye enumeration. Community meetings.
August: Endako Chinook enumeration. Community meetings. Nadina sockeye enumeration.
September: Fall release of juvenile sturgeon. Community meetings. Funding proposals.
Downstream Fry (This project has ended)
Downstream sockeye fry enumeration programs were developed by DFO with CSTC participants on the Middle River tributaries (Early Stuart sockeye), Stellaquo, and Nadina rivers. The Nadina River downstream fry program is an interesting one because it is a completely controlled system. Gravel size, water temperature and spawning capacity are all controlled within the Nadina River Spawning Channel. CSTC has consistently supplied a fisheries trainee to assist in the management of this spawning channel. The early summer complex of sockeye salmon that spawn here, while small in number, are an especially important stock due to their unique genetic character. It is this uniqueness that the CSTC fisheries program has fought to maintain. In a world of shrinking biodiversity we can not afford to lose this stock.
Adult Sockeye Enumeration
There are several adult sockeye enumeration programs currently operating within CSTC territory. Early Stuart enumeration takes place on seven tributary streams with the use of fish fences located strategically throughout the Stuart Watershed. The Nadina River supports a small run of early summer complex sockeye which the CSTC has also fought hard to protect. Due to the small numbers of early summer run sockeye and their precarious position between two large runs, this stock complex has been placed in jeopardy. Late Stuart and Stellaquo runs are also very important adult sockeye enumeration programs, and continue to be an integral part of the CSTC fisheries program employing many trainees.
Adult Chinook Enumeration
Adult chinook enumeration on the Endako River has also been very important. This run is functionally extinct and the Carrier Sekani want every measure taken to save this unique species. The CSTC has been monitoring this stock for over a decade, providing a relative long-term dataset.
Speaking for the Fish
Going fishing Under the 1993 Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy (AFS), we signed two five-year agreements, 1994-99 and 1999-2004, between the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council (CSTC) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), Canada. As a result, the management of fish stocks in this region has changed forever. Our current agreement is for one year 2007/2008.Management of salmon stocks, most notably sockeye and chinook, are now being co-managed under such agreements. These developments are laying the foundation for further agreements in natural resource management (for further information on our work see specific programs).
Wisdom of Many Generations
Skinning a fish The Carrier Sekani speak with the wisdom of many generations. Our culture and survival has always depended on a healthy environment, as does the survival of the fish. We are both strongly linked to the land and to each other. There are number of significant watersheds in our tribal territory which feed into the Fraser River. Of these watersheds, the Nechako is of the greatest concern. Its value to us, to the fish, and to all who have a vested interest in its health and survival, is immeasurable. For us, our watersheds are a priceless heritage, a sacred trust passed down from generation to generation. No words can express the depth of concern we feel for these water systems. Certainly, we have always made extensive use of the salmon resource and will continue to do so.
A Concern for All Fish
The catch.We have a concern for all fish species, not just the Sockeye or Chinook Salmon. While these are very important species, so too are the Rainbow Trout, Bull Trout, Whitefish, Kokanee, Burbot, White Sturgeon, and even Coarse Fish. We have a long and proven history of harvesting and managing all of these fish species. We are working to substantially increase our participation in the sustainability of these stocks, thus re-establishing our longstanding role in fish conservation and management. Still, there are many species that are in grave danger. It is up to the CSTC fisheries program to address these at-risk species and speak on their behalf. After all, when a species is gone, it is gone forever, and no one wins . . . we all lose!
A Concern for the Economy
The Nee Incha Koh* (Nechako River) is the largest tributary of the most important salmon-producing river in the world–the Ltha Koh** (Fraser River). Approximately 23% of the Ltha Koh sockeye production originates in the Nee Incha Koh watershed. A recent economic estimate of the commercial salmon catch associated with the Nee Incha Koh watershed is valued as high as $70,000,000 annually (Rankin 1993). Of even greater significance is the potential of this watershed to increase its production numbers up to 50% of all wild Ltha Koh Sockeye Salmon should all enhancement opportunities be successfully implemented.
* “river with strong undercurrents”
** “big mouth river”
The Land is Our Home
Taking stock.We know intimately the many lakes and streams in the Stuart/Takla and Francois/Fraser Lake systems. Our villages are adjacent to many of the key salmon streams, most notably the Stuart River, Middle River, Nautley River, Stellaquo River, and Tachie River. Therefore, it stands to reason that we are deeply concerned about the well being of the land and the economy of all who depend on it. In light of this we recognize the challenge to reassert our place within our lands.
Fisheries Science & Research
The Endako River Chinook population, presently on the edge of functional extinction, remains a high priority for the Carrier Sekani people. Biophysical surveys on the Endako River carried out since 1994 continue to play a role in developing programs on this river and the Chinook population therein. Continuous flow hydrology and water temperature monitoring are playing a key role in understanding the extent of work needed. CSTC will continue to add to the Chinook Gene Banking Program in association with The World Fisheries Trust. This program is designed to preserve the genetic integrity of this unique stock.
Numerous continuous recording water temperature data loggers have been installed in various rivers and streams throughout the CSTC territory. Considerable dialogue and cooperation has taken place between DFO, CSTC and other neighbouring First Nations to ensure successful integration of the CSTC program with other initiatives.