Babine Lake salmon count down

The sockeye harvest by Lake Babine Nation (LBN) members was dramatically lower this year than in previous years when stocks were healthier.

Around 8,300 sockeye were taken by LBN members from the Babine River fish fence during the three-week period it was open until Sept. 2, as Donna MacIntyre, Fisheries Director with LBN told Black Press.

In normal years when salmon numbers are higher throughout the Skeena River Watershed, LBN anglers could harvest 39,000 sockeye from Aug. 1 to Labour Day.

More than 75 per cent of LBN’s food fish harvest comes from the Babine counting fence.

“We closed the fence [after Sept. 2] to allow the fish to go spawn. It was the first time. I always say ‘the grocery store is always open’ but this year it wasn’t,” MacIntyre said.

But the low numbers of sockeye spurred LBN to limit the season to just three weeks. It also chose not to open its commercial fishery.

Other neighbouring First Nations such as the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en sought bans in late July on fishing in their traditional territories.

READ MORE: No plans to ban sockeye harvesting, LBN says

READ MORE: Gitxsan salmon crisis team appeals for collaboration

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs ask the Wet’suwet’en to stop harvesting sockeye

“We decided that conservation was important. We had to balance conservation with food fish and Aboriginal rights and title,” MacIntyre said.

Under Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) regulations, when sockeye numbers fall to 400,000 it is considered a conservation crisis and no food fishing is permitted.

On Aug. 9 the count estimate was at 600,816, she said.

Recreational sockeye fishing in Babine Lake and its tributaries – including the Babine River – has been closed since July 11, since stocks didn’t reach the 800,000 threshold of the DFO’s integrated fisheries management plans.

LOOK BACK: Skeena mainstem closed to recreational sockeye

Coho fishing on the Babine River remains open, and anglers are allowed to take two of the species per day, and one of them can be over 50 centimetres, as DFO spokesperson Louise Girouard said.

Many LBN members found the reduced food fishery difficult to handle, as MacIntyre explained.

“I got lots of calls from people saying they didn’t have enough. I had people phoning me and crying. Just yesterday I was dealing with an elder who said ‘I don’t have enough to feed my grandchildren. The fish you give me isn’t enough for the winter.’”

“[And] it’s a long way to drive to the fence. If you have a small limit it’s really not worth it.”

Some members can still fish using nets, but MacIntyre said the quality of most salmon is decreasing now that the season is almost over and sockeye flesh is becoming less palatable.

“For LBN, as stewards of [most of] the Skeena sockeye stocks, it can be difficult for us to balance food fish and conserving for future generations. It’s a fine line and the people who depend on fish for their protein can suffer. Diabetes is running rampant in our communities and that sockeye is important and it saves them money. But if they don’t have enough fish they end up having to buy cheap food. With salmon being a backbone of our culture it’s also a health issue because they need that protein,” MacIntyre said.

This year has not been as bad as in 2013, when the sockeye return numbered around 540,000.

LOOK BACK: Babine Lake salmon collapse


Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
Send Blair an email
Like Lakes District News on Facebook

Just Posted

B.C. First Nation Chief Ed John faces historic sex charges

John served as minister for children and families under then-premier Ujjah Dosanjh

Still no sign of missing Houston woman

Laureen Fabian last seen Oct. 28

Cullen gets $89,000 in post-MP severance

At 55, the former MP will also be eligible for an $82,000 per annum pension

No four-wheel drive ambulances for the north

Aren’t suitable for paramedics or patients

District approves 9th Street design

Stage now set for extensive project

VIDEO: B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

Seguin lifts surging Stars to 4-2 win over Canucks

Dallas is 6-0-1 in last seven outings

B.C. government working with RCMP to address $10 million in budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

BC Liquor Stores to move fully to paper bags by March

Vancouver Island to be the first to convert to paper bags in November

Tolko shuts B.C. divisions for two weeks over holidays

Head office to close from Dec. 23-27; two weeks’ downtime runs Dec. 21-Jan. 6

Port Moody mayor says stayed sex assault charge related to ‘awkward date’

Rob Vagramov said charge was related to a string of dates in 2015

UBC conference draws fire over speaker from Chinese tech company blacklisted in U.S.

The company that has been blacklisted by the U.S. over links to the repression of China’s Muslim minority

‘It’s been 12 years’: Father of murdered B.C. real estate agent pleads for mayor’s help

Lindsay Buziak was stabbed to death on Feb. 2, 2008 in Saanich. Her case is unsolved.

Most Read