Since program initiation in 1993, the Gitksan Watershed Authorities have been responsible for communal fisheries activities, a program conducted on the mainstem Skeena River from Legate Creek in the western most territories up to Gisgagaas Canyon on the Babine River in the northern territories. The purpose of this core program is to account for all of the salmon harvested within Gitksan territories (multi-sectoral) to ensure that our Gitksan allocation is included and accounted for in management decisions for the whole Skeena River harvest. By defining precise catch numbers for the number of fish that serves our communities’ needs, we can inform downriver harvests to make sure commercial, recreational and other downriver First Nations aren’t over-harvesting in accordance with each year’s total abundance estimates. The GWA Catch monitors also maintain an important presence on the water and are trained and experience in Swift Water Rescue, enabling monitors to respond to and assist in emergency situations and Search and Rescue efforts.
The primary focus of this work GWA through the Rangers program, is the monitoring of the Gitksan Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) salmon catches on the Skeena River (set and drift gillnets), Bulkley River (set gill net), and Babine River (primarily by dipnet in the Gisgagaas Canyon). Smaller fisheries occur on the Lower Bulkley River near Hagwilget and on the Skeena River near Kuldo.
Beyond monitoring Gitksan food fish catch (Section 35 Fisheries), monitors also report on Gitksan commercial fisheries, as well as collecting information from the coastal food fishery conducted by Gitksan community members. This program employs 4-6 seasonal employees that work under the guidance of Rodney Harris, conducting monitoring effort surveys throughout the fishing seasons and then carry forward into the fall to conduct population assessment surveys on creeks.
Catch data is provided voluntarily by fishers and is reported back to community members in community newsletters throughout the fishing season alongside updates to total abundance estimates and fishing regulations coming from the Tyee Test fishery and DFO fisheries managers downstream.