Sockeye salmon run is so low, Carrier Sekani Tribal Council is forced to buy food-grade salmon to use as bait for endangered sturgeon study. CSTC calls on Fisheries and Oceans Canada to fund First Nations training to run hatcheries in their communities, in an effort to increase salmon populations.
(Unceded territory of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, Prince George, B.C. – Sept. 3, 2020) — Carrier Sekani Tribal Council usually conducts its research on endangered white sturgeon by sourcing Sockeye salmon to use as bait from the Lheidli T’enneh or Stellako First Nations. But salmon returns are so low this year, there isn’t enough salmon to use as bait without getting it from the grocery store. It’s a symbol of just how endangered the runs are. CSTC Fisheries Program Manager Christina Ciesielski had no choice but to purchase 30 kilograms of salmon from Save-On-Foods, in order to attract juvenile sturgeon to be studied.
“It felt criminal that we’re buying these food-grade fish from a corporation to catch an endangered species that we’re studying — when there’s people in our communities who are starving. That could have fed members of our communities,” says Ciesielski.
CSTC values its ability to trade for or buy the salmon from neighbouring First Nations. “We do it to help each other out,” says Ciesielski. “We’re First Nations and we want to support other First Nations groups. It’s what people used to do and we want to keep that alive.”
The Early Stuart Sockeye Run has been reduced to a fraction of its historical peak numbers from 500,000 salmon to what’s estimated to be 16,000 this year. The Late Stuart Run and part of the Summer Run (Stellako) are also low this year at 55,000, down from a historical peak of over 1.6 million and about half the 2015 return numbers.
Ciesielski says that without rapid investment from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to train CSTC’s member nations to run new hatcheries in their communities, those numbers won’t improve.
A recent study (2009, Levy et al.) by the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance (UFFCA) shows that high water, high temperatures and other migration conditions have played a big part in the decline of the Early and Late Stuart Sockeye runs. Adding to that the recent Big Bar landslide and a multitude of factors in the ocean all contributing to devastating returns.