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Skeena sockeye returns jump 50 per cent in three years thanks to Indigenous leadership – The Narwhal

B.C. First Nations voluntarily closed their food fishery or limited the catch for two decades to help rebuild salmon populations. This year, those sacrifices are paying off

After nearly two decades of closing the Skeena watershed sockeye food fishery or limiting the catch, the Wet’suwet’en First Nation is finally seeing promising returns.

“Almost everybody that wanted sockeye this year got some at least,” Walter Joseph, fisheries manager with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, said in an interview. “I wouldn’t say it met people’s needs, but we did distribute more fish than we have in many years.”

The sockeye runs in the Morice-Nanika system upriver from Witset, a Wet’suwet’en community north of Smithers, B.C., dropped to 8,000 fish in the mid-1990s, Joseph said. In the first half of the 20th century, 10 times that many fish — an average of around 80,000 — would reach the watershed, according to Michael Price, a fisheries biologist working with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en. Between 2010 and 2017, the average return was 16,000, Price said.

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