Lake Babine Nation and SkeenaWild Media Release: Lake Babine First Nation revives fishery taken from them in 1906

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For Immediate Release – From Lake Babine Nation and SkeenaWild Conservation Trust
August 25, 2011

(Burns Lake) – Yesterday’s opening of a smokehouse in the community of Tachet on the
shores of Babine Lake marks the revival of a salmon fishery taken from the Lake Babine
Nation over a century ago.

For thousands of years, the Lake Babine people operated traditional salmon weirs on
Babine Lake and the Babine River, harvesting in excess of 750,000 sockeye a year. But
in 1906, the Canadian government banned their traditional fishery, devastating an entire
way of life.

Now, the Lake Babine Nation has re-established its traditional fishery in cooperation with
Fisheries and Oceans Canada and regional conservation organizations.

“These fisheries are very important to the Lake Babine people who suffer from high
unemployment and poverty,” explained Lake Babine Nation’s fisheries manager Donna
Macintyre. “Some of the participants live on less than $200 per month, so this income is
a major boost to their ability to support themselves and their families.”

“Hearing fishers singing traditional Carrier songs with huge smiles on their face really
says it all,” she added.

More than 60 people are now employed to selectively harvest salmon from the Fulton
River using beach seines. A second fishery located on the Babine River near the
community of Fort Babine is employing an additional 20 people. This fishery uses the
DFO salmon counting fence, which was constructed in 1946 at the same site Lake
Babine Nation’s largest traditional K’oonze (the Carrier word for weir) once stood.

“This is such a great news story for the Lake Babine Nation. Not only are they bringing
significant benefits to their communities, but they are showing the world that these
fisheries are sustainable and economically viable,” said Greg Knox, executive director of
SkeenaWild Conservation Trust. “Their location and harvesting techniques allow these
fisheries to intercept strong runs while allowing smaller, weaker populations to reach
their spawning areas. They are some of the most sustainable salmon fisheries in the
world.”

Yesterday, a celebration is took place in Spirit Square in the community of Tachet to
officially open the community’s new smoke house, gathering site, and campground.
Funds for this project came from LBN’s Forestry Department’s Economic Initiatives.
“Harvesting natural renewable resources economically and for sustenance is critical to
the health of the Nation,” explained Chief Wilf Adam. “This project provides an important
opportunity to express our aboriginal right to commercially sell our salmon, and bring
benefits back to our communities”.

“We are hoping to start using profits from our fisheries to build more infrastructure in our
communities, which have struggled for a long time” said Donna Macintyre.

The smoke house will provide a facility for everyone in the community to smoke their
own fish, and will provide food for elders and community members who do not have
access to fish and smoking facilities. The campground will provide revenue to the
community from tourists and fishermen who frequent the area during summer.

The fisheries also have the potential to add value to the fish being caught. Often
overlooked in the past, salmon caught near their spawning areas are leaner, making
them suitable for unique products. The Lake Babine Nations is currently working with
Vancouver-based Raincoast Trading to develop new product forms and markets, and is
looking to expand future operations to include on-site processing of salmon roe products
for the caviar market in Japan and Europe.

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See below for contacts.  For more information see the PDF of the media release and backgrounder. Photos and b-roll video available by request.

Contacts:

Donna Macintyre
Lake Babine Nation Fisheries Manager
250 692 0344

Chief Wilf Adam
Chief, Lake Babine Nation
250 693 0422

Greg Knox
Executive Director, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust
250 615 1990

 

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