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Location: Fraser River Basin
In early 2006, the Integrated Harvest Planning Committee (IHPC) completed a structured decision-making process with regard to Cultus Lake recovery. A key outcome was the decision of the Commercial Salmon Advisory Board (CSAB) to approach lower Fraser First Nations - Sto:lo Nation, Sto:lo Tribal Council and independents to collaborate on the development of an integrated Fraser River sockeye salmon management plan. While many First Nation communities expressed an interest in this initiative, an urgent issue identified for immediate action was the current state of the Cultus Lake sockeye salmon population. The outcome of these historic discussions was the development of the first Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the CSAB and Sto: lo First Nations. As part of an inclusive strategy, other upriver First Nations were invited into the discussions and contributed to the development of the MOU.
‘Building a River Community’ continued the work begun in the first MOU. Elements of this work included the continued development of cross-cultural relationships between the CSAB, Sto:lo First Nations, upriver First Nations, and other groups such the recreational fishery and the conservation sector as well as the development of a framework and work-plan to identify activities which need to be carried out to restore and conserve Cultus Lake sockeye.
In the course of this project, a non-governmental organization, The Fraser River Salmon Table Society, was developed with an expanded mandate that not only included all First Nation communities within the Fraser River system as well as the other three partners, but a willingness to engage all issues relevant to the sustainability of wild salmon stocks on the Fraser River system.
The Mission of the Fraser River Salmon Table Society:
The Fraser River Salmon Table Society fosters mutual respect and increased understanding of individual interests among various fisheries and rights-holders in order to achieve reduced conflict, better decision-making, effective harvest management, improved health of salmon stocks and greater economic opportunity for all. Plans and activities must be adaptable and able to respond to external pressures and changing social values.
There are four projects and five identified goals that comprise the Continuing to Build a River Community proposal:
2) Best Practices Dialogue
3) Development and execution of Fraser River/ Cultus Lake Recovery Initiatives
Fraser River Recovery Box Initiative: Experience from the commercial fisheries on BC’s coast suggests that the use of recovery boxes in which pumped water revives incidentally caught fish prior to release, is an effective tool that greatly increases the survival rate of such fish. As most of these are from stocks of concern, the boxes help to permit the targeting of healthy stocks while allowing the release of depleted stocks. It is likely that such a system might be adapted for use in the inland fisheries. The development of a series of roving recovery boxes that could be moved to the sites of various First Nation and recreational fisheries as needed could help to create a common, mobile recovery mechanism for stocks of concern that could be organized and used on a collective basis.
Goal: To explore the feasibility of developing a pilot program to test the use of roving recovery boxes to be moved among sites of First Nation and recreational fisheries by newly trained First Nations fisheries technicians.
4a) Develop operational terms of reference and supply technical support for inter tribal initiatives along the Fraser River.
Faced with the likelihood of low returns of sockeye and chinook salmon to the Fraser River in 2008 and beyond, challenges to FSC access experienced by upriver First Nations, and the move by DFO toward co-management, it is clear that all Fraser River First Nations will benefit from understanding the issues and needs of all the other First Nations who share the harvest of the same stocks. The exploration of novel approaches such as the establishment of extra-territorial harvesting points for upriver Nations is necessary to ensure that all First Nations get their FSC fish each year.
Support of the inter tribal treaty process via the Salmon Table will assist First Nations organizations in dealing with contentious issues surrounding the execution of the salmon fishery while avoiding the usual AFS/AAROM political traps. The successful implementation of the inter tribal treaty process has the benefit of providing a venue for First Nations to come to a common understanding of their fishing rights and responsibilities while reestablishing inter tribal collaboration on the execution of the fishery. Envisioned is a project to bring together First Nations, supported by strong technical data as needed, to examine options for the management of the 2008 Fraser salmon season and beyond.
4b) Stuart Initiative: The early Stuart sockeye population has returned in record low numbers over the last number of cycles. This once abundant but erratic producer has been reduced to a plateau of low abundance by a number of factors. One possible factor contributing to low survivals of Stuart Lake sockeye is the culmination of low water flows coupled with higher water temperatures. In the years since the Hell’s Gate fish-way was installed there have been greater fluctuations in flows and the entrance and exit of the fish-way are sometimes above the water level. Fish held up at Hell’s Gate waiting for a change in water levels are put in a state of significant stress due to high water temperatures.
One possible solution for this might be to increase the operating range of the Hell’s Gate fish-way, offsetting the stress of high temperatures by lessening the need to use energy to hold in turbulent waters waiting for better flow conditions. An initial scoping of the extent of the flow problem is required at Hell’s Gate. This would involve a biological and engineering team to review the original blueprints, assess the design flows and compare them to the flows of today. Based on this assessment the team will be in a position to scope out the feasibility of retrofitting the fish way to accommodate additional follow conditions and establish a preliminary cost estimate.
The final report for the study is posted in the orange resource box to the right.