Eulachon were an important food source for B.C.’s First Nations, but in recent years, the stocks have been on a continual decline. The situation has grown so dire that the fish will be among the species to be assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in May.
The fish come back starting in April, but stocks have fallen so low that, according to Ernie Crey, a fisheries adviser to the Stó:lo Tribal Council, the runs are so small as to be almost unnoticeable, unless one is out there trying very hard to find and catch the smelts.
Crey spoke to the Straight by phone on April 15, about a week after he had talked with members of the Kwantlen First Nation who had tried to catch oolichan. They managed to get only a dozen.
“That’s a profound change from what the runs of the Fraser used to be 25, 30, 50 years ago,” Crey said. “They’ve been caught in the shrimp-trawl fishery and destroyed. There are other reasons why they’re not as plentiful as they used to be, and those are related to habitat loss. There’s a lot of industrial activity along the lower Fraser River, from sewage discharges from municipalities…to the phenomena of the so-called midnight dumper or dumping of chemicals into streams and into the river itself.” … [read full article]