In 2005 the Canadian Minister of Fisheries announced a new policy titled the Pacific Fisheries Reform (PFR), which came about to improve fisheries conservation, foster First Nations interest in economic fisheries and to help improve the sustainability of BC fisheries. In the same year the first pilot First Nations economic fisheries occurred on the Fraser and Skeena Rivers under this program. Overall, these fisheries have achieved the goals of the PFR and have had positive reviews by DFO management staff and the public in general.
Because these fisheries occur upriver, as opposed to on the coast, they avoid the major conservation problems associated with mixed-stock fisheries - where weaker stocks are fished along with stronger stocks, creating serious conservation issues. The result is that these fisheries are more selective and sustainable. The initiative has also helped create prosperity within First Nations communities and improve co-operative management of the salmon resource in the two largest rivers in BC. Reviews of these pilot fisheries showed that First Nations could implement more sustainable fisheries than traditional fishing methods without compromising the economics of the industry. Furthermore, through the implementation of these demonstration fisheries, First Nations have been able to get more involved in the fisheries industry, create prosperity in their communities (short term high paying jobs), and help foster co-operative management of the salmon resource in BC.
Starting in 2009, the Gitanyow have conducted 2 economic fisheries for sockeye salmon at the Meziadin River fishing site. The first fishery took place from August 17-21 of 2009 and a total of 1,500 fish were harvested. 1,300 of these were shipped to Prince Rupert for processing. With the remaining 200 fish, GFA partnered with the Wet'suwet'en to sell the fish fresh at Moricetown Canyon. The second fishery in 2010 saw the quote increase to 3,000 fish. The bulk of the fish were caught within a few days, and all fish were shipped to Prince Rupert for processing. As in 2009, once expense were paid, all profits were reinvested in the Gitanyow Fisheries program.
As part of managing these fisheries, GFA developed landing slips and fish slips which were reviewed by DFO management staff, and then forwarded to DFO enforcement staff, prior to fisheries occurring. Prior to the implementation of the fishery, DFO management and enforcement staff were notified of the intended start date, were given directions to the landing site and given a list of the designated fishers. While the fishery was taking place DFO fishery managers were updated daily on catch results, and landing / fish slips were also forward to them upon completion of the fishery.
Reviews from DFO staff were extremely positive and the Gitanyow Fisheries Authority was complemented on the professional and organized manner that they conducted the fishery. Fishery Officers noted that channels of communication were kept open and any information that was requested from GFA was produced immediately and was all in good order. Fishery Officers visited the site on five separate occasions and all officers indicated that they were impressed with the orderly fashion that the Fishery was implemented and the cleanliness of the site post fishery.
The Gitanyow hope to build on the success of this small scale, sustainable fishery.