Want To Save B.C. Salmon? Bring Back Indigenous Fishing Systems: Study

“Traditional technologies, harvesting practices and management systems could bring endangered populations back from the brink, but government buy-in is needed”

“On the Nass River in northern B.C., the current spins six fishwheels managed by the Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government. The fishwheels, which carry baskets round and round, are like “ferris wheels for fish,” according to Andrea Reid, a Nisg̱a’a fisheries scientist.

After fish are caught, the baskets drop them into a holding pen submerged in water next to the wheel.

“It’s a friendly way to capture fish because it doesn’t really stress them out,” said Reid, adding that the fish aren’t exposed to air and are rarely damaged.

These fishwheels are just one example of Indigenous fishing technologies that allow for a selective harvest, meaning fish from strong populations can be harvested and those from weak populations can be released. Such technologies were widely used across First Nations territories prior to colonization, when they were banned by the Canadian government. Reid said Indigenous fishing systems were outlawed and destroyed because they were “a source of power” for Indigenous Peoples and “a way for nations to have sovereignty.””

Stephanie Wood reports for The Narwhal January 6, 2021.