Three First Nations, including two with reserves in Langley, have launched a legal challenge against DFO management of Fraser River salmon stocks.
The Kwantlen, Katzie, and Seabird Island First Nations are challenging the management of the spring Chinook salmon, which has seen a decline in numbers in recent years.
Kwantlen’s main reserve is in Fort Langley, and the Katzie First Nation has a reserve on the shore near 208th Street.
The suit wants to block sport fisheries off the coast of Vancouver Island, which they allege are impacting the stocks as they return to the Fraser.
The three First Nations allege that DNA analysis of sport-caught fish show that Fraser River spring Chinook are being caught in “substantial numbers” in the ocean.
“For thousands of years our people have maintained a special relationship to these fish on the Fraser River,” said Councillor Les Antone of the Kwantlen. “That is what’s at stake for us. Going out and fishing for spring Chinook to begin each season is a part of our culture and way of life.”
The decline is impacting both food security and the ability pass along traditions, Antone said.
“We are now lucky to catch a handful each season,” he said.
“DFO has flipped the constitutional priority on its head by giving priority to sports fishermen over the serious conservation concerns and the needs of our communities,” said Katzie Chief Susan Miller.
Court decisions have affirmed that conservation is the highest priority, then the Aboriginal right to fish for food, social, and ceremonial purposes. Then recreational and commercial fisheries can take place.