We would like to let the community know about the work that the Watchmen have been doing up in Smith Inlet to monitor and interact with the commercial gillnet fishing fleet during the commercial opening.
We would like to tell you that the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw fisheries department wrote DFO and asked them not to open the Inlet to commercial fishing but this request was ignored. In the letter we said that we did not oppose commercial fishing in general, but we felt that DFO should be very cautious in opening this extremely important run of fish without a full understanding of our Nations concerns about conservation and food fish availability. We also stated in that letter that if they were to open the fishing up to the commercial fishers that our Nation would be present to monitor and document all the activities on the water. We are extremely proud to say that we held up our end of what we said we would do!
Our Watchmen and the vessel the Hook Tender were present from an hour before the opening and through the first 5 days of the opening. The crew of Doug Johnny sr and Tom Henderson jr (and our junior watchmen joined them on the 4th and 5th days) put in extremely long days on the water taking pictures of the vessels, approaching the fleet to interact and explain why we were there, documenting catch & by catch numbers, checking the vessels equipment (live revival tanks etc.) as well as to be on hand to lend a hand in case of an emergency.
Our crew documented between 34 and 43 boats fishing (depended on the day) and these vessels were averaging 200 plus fish for the first few days of the opening. We are not scientists but we have been told that the number of fish that have gone over the fence had already reached a high enough number to ensure a good sustainable number for escapement purposes next year. We can tell you that our fisheries crew have been extremely busy so far this season with the numbers over the Docee fence being a total to date (July 26,2011) of - 135,560 (131,047 Sockeye , 4513 Coho, 6 Pinks)
Almost all of the vessels that were approached were a little on edge as to what we were doing, and through great communications by our crew we were able to set the fishermen’s minds at ease. We explained that we were out looking after the traditional territories and that we are the eyes and ears for our Nation. After a few minutes of talking almost every fisherman relaxed and they would make comments like “it is so great to see that you are out in your traditional territories” or “keep up the good work” or other equally positive things. After us spending time out on the fishing grounds these fisherman were happy to see us and they were very open to having a conversation about what was going on. These interactions bring long term legitimacy to our program and the more interactions that we can have the better!
The crew should also be commended for averting a potentially very expensive break down by using great judgment and making the right decision. Way to go!!
If the Nation has an opportunity to go food fishing again we as Guardian Watchmen will be there keeping an eye on things too! We have a commitment to our Nation to be the eyes and ears for all that happens in the traditional territories.
Your Guardian Watchmen Crew