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RELEASE: Gitxsan Chiefs Extend Fishing Ban to 2020 & Urge Canada, BC and Ministries to Step Up

“A temporary fish ban by DFO is not solving the issue; it’s merely putting a band aid on it.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

HAZELTON, BC - JULY 26, 2019A management committee called ‘Crisis Management Team’ has been created by the Gitxsan Chiefs which focuses on addressing the fish crisis. In doing so, the Chiefs have denied the public and fish permit holders access to fish the fisheries tenure/Anaat (cultural fishing holes) for 2019, first announced in May.

Today the Gitxsan Chiefs that make up the Crisis Management Team announced that they will extend the fish closure to the 2020 fishing season in response to what they believe is Department of Fisheries & Oceans (DFO) mismanagement of the fisheries along the Skeena River.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is supposed to be announcing that there is a food fishery closure notice for Skeena FSC sockeye on the evening of Sunday July 28th. Depending upon the estimated returns of Skeena Sockeye past the Tyee Test Fishery between now and then this decision could change. Further to this, DFO is expected to also close recreational fishing for all species of Salmon in River. They have chosen to reduce the Chinook recreational fishery catch from 2 Chinook to 1 in Marine area 4 and portions of 3 and 5. Pending a formal announcement, this information may change.

DFO uses data from the Tyee Test Fishery to determine fish counts and when fish counts are lower in volume that is what dictates fish closures issued by DFO.

The Gitxsan Crisis Team states that these measures are not enough: “A temporary fish ban by DFO is not solving the issue; it’s merely putting a band aid on it. We’ve fished these rivers our whole lives and we know when we have a fish crisis on our hands. With impacts of development along our rivers such as highways, railways, agriculture, mines and clear cutting to name a few – these are additional external factors that play a role in declining fish stocks which have been continually deteriorating over the past century,” says Brian Williams, Chair of Gigeenix (Up River Chiefs).

The Gitxsan Chiefs that form part of the Crisis Management Team ask for a number of items to be addressed:

First, Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRO) issues fishing permits and cutting permits for clear cut logging. The issue is the overcutting that causes drought in the streams resulting in fish habitats being destroyed by logging. The Crisis Management Team needs a plan to address the damage caused by government issued permits.

Second, we don’t rely on Tyee Test Fishery (measurement to count fish stock) to close fishing to the public and permit holders - we know our fish are in crisis and we require more meaningful participation from BC and Canada during our Crisis Management Meetings. Simply coming to the table is not enough. We ask both governments to assign proper levels of authority and to bring the right decision makers to the table.

Lastly, DFO had agreed to make arrangements to invite the Sports Fishery Advisory Council (SFAC) to today’s meeting. We encourage their participation and we want them to be a part of the solution and require collaboration.

The Crisis Management team is committed to addressing this issue in collaboration with all stakeholders. The committee’s mandate also includes collaboration with other First Nations, as part of the Skeena Nations Fish Forum Protocol. As this is a matter that affects the future of the whole region, the Crisis Team is calling on the governments of Canada and BC to step up to honour their commitments to truth and reconciliation by working with the Gitxsan to address this matter of vital importance to our people.

ABOUT THE GITXSAN

The diverse Gitxsan Nation, in Northern BC, is made up of four clans and House Groups called Huwilp led by Simgiigyet who hold the governance authority (Daxgyet). The traditional society is governed by a system of laws (Ayook) and oral histories (Adaakw), all carried out in feast hall (Lilliget).  The Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en people made history and headlines in 1997 when, on appeal, together they sought the first comprehensive account of aboriginal rights and title in Canada in the Delgamuukw court decision. The Gitxsan Nation covers 33,000 sq. km in Northwest BC; it is estimated that there are 14,000 people of Gitxsan heritage throughout the world.

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MEDIA CONTACTS

Gwiiyeehl Brian Williams, Chair of Gigeenix (Up River Chiefs)
Work: 250-842-6780 | bwilliams@gitxsan.ca

Sakum Higookw Vernon Smith, Representative of Gyeets (Down River Chiefs)
Work: 250-849-5308

Niisgimiinuu Robert Campbell (Member of Up River Chiefs)
Work: 250-842-5199

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