Community/Co-management

The following report is divided into three major sections with accompanying side stories. The first deals with First Nations and their historic connection to salmon fisheries. The second briefly enumerates the changes that occurred with the evolution of salmon fisheries into commercial ventures. The third looks at present-day conservation issues and the challenges they pose for First Nations. It is hoped that when this report is viewed with the other two sectoral reports, it will help to enliven discussion on ongoing conservation-focused initiatives as they regard what is arguably our most important fisheries resource.

Salmon are inherently resilient species. However, this resiliency has been undermined in British Columbia by a century of centralized, command-and-control management focused initially on maximizing yield and, more recently, on economic efficiency. Community and cultural resiliency have also been undermined, especially by the recent emphasis on economic efficiency, which has concentrated access in the hands of a few and has disenfranchised fishery-dependent communities. Recent declines in both salmon stocks and salmon prices have revealed the systemic failure of the current management system. If salmon and their fisheries are to become viable again, radically new management policies are needed. For the salmon species, the emphasis must shift from maximizing yield to restoring resilience; for salmon fisheries, the emphasis must shift from maximizing economic efficiency to maximizing community and cultural resilience. For the species, an approach is needed that integrates harvest management, habitat management, and habitat enhancement to sustain and enhance resilience. This is best achieved by giving fishing and aboriginal communities greater responsibility and authority to manage the fisheries on which they depend. Co-management arrangements that involve cooperative ownership of major multistock resources like the Fraser River and Skeena River fisheries and community-based quota management of smaller fisheries provide ways to put species conservation much more directly in the hands of the communities most dependent on the well-being and resilience of these fisheries.