Fisheries

Currently, some First Nation aboriginal fishing rights are implemented through the federal government’s Aboriginal Fishing Strategy (AFS), an initiative which puts into operation what are relatively uncertain or evolving aboriginal rights. The fishery provisions of the Nisga’a Final Agreement achieve certainty on the implementation of the Nisga’a constitutional fishing rights and the provisions provide greater fairness and equality than the AFS regime.

In the interest of conservation and fairness, the Nisga’a Final Agreement provides the Nisga’a an allocation of salmon that will be based on a percentage of Nass Salmon returning to Canadian waters and not a fixed number. Under the Final Agreement, Canada and British Columbia continue to manage the fisheries.
 

  Salmon Allocation

The Nisga’a will receive an annual allocation of salmon based on average return of Nass River salmon to Canadian waters. On average the Nisga’a allocation will represent approximately 17 per cent of the Canadian Nass River total allowable catch or, based on historic annual returns to the Nass River, 75,000 "sockeye equivalents" -- a means of comparing the values of five different species.

Any sale of salmon will be subject to monitoring and enforcement provisions and laws of general application. Sale of salmon will not be allowed in years when there is no directed Canadian commercial or recreational fisheries for Nass salmon.
 

Management

Canada and British Columbia will continue to manage the fisheries. The federal and provincial Ministers will retain final decision making authority.

A Fisheries Management Committee, with equal representation from the Nisga’a, Canada and B.C., will be established to help plan and conduct the Nisga’a fisheries and enhancement activities for Nass salmon stocks.

The Nisga’a will have the authority to regulate and manage their own fisheries once the Ministers responsible has approved a Nisga’a annual fishing plan.

In order to ensure the allocations to the Nisga’a in the Final Agreement and the Harvest Agreement have a minimal impact on the commercial fishing industry, harvesting capacity will be removed from the commercial fleet on a voluntary buy-back basis.

 
 
Harvest Agreement
 
Under a Harvest Agreement that is separate from the Final Agreement, the Nisga’a will receive an additional allocation of sockeye and pink salmon. This allocation will be on average approximately nine per cent of the Canadian Nass total allowable catch. The salmon under the harvest agreement may be used for both food and commercial purposes. The Agreement will not operate in years where conservation or other requirements dictate that there is no non-Nisga’a commercial fishery.
 

Steelhead and Other Marine Species

The Nisga’a may harvest both summer-run and winter-run steelhead for domestic purposes, if stocks can support a directed harvest. The Nisga’a ability to sell steelhead will be subject to laws of general application.

The Nisga’a may harvest other fish species for domestic needs. This includes a non-exclusive right to harvest intertidal bivalve shellfish, and an exclusive right shared with other persons who have aboriginal rights to harvest oolichan in the Nass Area.

The Final Agreement provides a mechanism for determining future Nisga’a allocations for halibut, crab, herring, prawns, shrimp and marine plants.
 

Commercial Licences

The Nisga’a will receive $11.5 million to purchase commercial fishing vessels and licences on the open market to allow the Nisga’a to participate in the commercial fishery.

The Nisga’a have agreed not to establish a large fish processing facility for eight years after the Final Agreement takes effect.
 

Lisims Fisheries Conservation Trust

Canada will contribute $10 million and the Nisga’a $3 million to a trust to promote conservation and stewardship of the Nass fish stocks.
 

Surplus

If the federal Minister determines there are more than enough salmon to meet spawning requirements, the Nisga’a may also be provided additional harvest opportunities. The Nisga’a have no treaty right to surplus salmon.

The Final Agreement builds in an incentive for the Nisga’a to enhance the Nass River fisheries to their benefit and the benefit of others. The Nisga’a will have the right to harvest surplus Nass salmon that result from approved Nisga’a enhancement initiatives in the same proportion as the Nisga’a contribution to the total cost of the initiative. These harvests will be in addition to the Nisga’a fish allocations.
 

For further information on this or other topics, contact:

Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs
Communications Branch
4th Floor, 908 Pandora Avenue
Victoria BC V8W 1X4
Telephone: 1-800-880-1022