Eulachon is a small, oily fish that is native to the North West Coast. These fish used to be in abundance along the Fraser River and highly sought after by the Sto:lo First Nations of the area as a source of fresh food after long winters. The fish populations were so great, their predators – seals, sea lions, orca whales, etc. – would follow them part way up river to feast.
The Fraser River eulachon was designated as threatened by COSEWIC but has not been listed as endangered under the Species At Risk Act. Their numbers have fallen drastically over the years. For example in 1996 there were 1,800 tons, which declined to 150 tons by 2004. And ten years later, not much has changed.
First Nations leaders are urging the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to take a closer look at these declines and to reconsider how the fishery is being alloted between bycatch and the fisheries.
DFO limited 30 First Nations on the Lower Fraser River, with a combined population of 10,000 people, to a catch of only 400 pounds of eulachon last year, [Sto:lo Tribal Council president, Clarence Pennier, said].
“We didn’t fail to notice that DFO allowed the commercial shrimp trawl fleet to take up to eight tonnes of eulachon as by-catch.”
The problem is that the trawl fleet has no market for eulachon. Eulachon taken as by-catch are simply chucked overboard, and only part of the catch is monitored.
“We insist that our rights to a fishery for eulachon be respected and that DFO work with our communities to come up with a more acceptable fishing plan for eulachon in 2013,” concluded Pennier. [Read full article].