“Beyond a stated preference for sockeye salmon, the Squamish Nation did not address why other fish cannot satisfy the food needs of the community,” states a Federal Court ruling.
The Squamish First Nation in British Columbia has lost its bid in the Federal Court for an increase to its Food, Social and Ceremonial [FSC] fishing allocation for sockeye salmon in the Fraser River.
It had argued that its sockeye salmon allocation was not reasonable, fair, or based upon the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) policies and that it is not consistent with the constitutional duties of the Crown.
But Federal Court Judge Ann Marie McDonald dismissed the application, ruling the DFO’s regional director general of the Pacific region “made a reasonable decision in a procedurally fair manner which respected any constitutional limits on her discretion.”
The court ruled that the Squamish Nation did not present evidence to demonstrate why not being able to fish for 70,000 sockeye salmon adversely impacted on its asserted claim to fish for sockeye salmon for FSC purposes.
It had been allocated 30,000 sockeye salmon pieces by the DFO.
“Beyond a stated preference for sockeye salmon, the Squamish Nation did not address why other fish cannot satisfy the food needs of the community,” the ruling stated.
Canadian Press reported that the Squamish First Nation opposed a decision by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 2014 that raised its sockeye catch from 20,000 to 30,000 fish, and also increased allotments of chum and pink salmon.
The First Nation filed an application for a judicial review after federal officials rejected its request for 70,000 sockeye for food, social and ceremonial purposes.
The First Nation claimed its allocation of approximately five sockeye per person was far below the 48 allotted to some other Indigenous groups and was insufficient for community needs.
McDonald says in her ruling that the nation’s allocation is both higher and lower than the more than 100 Aboriginal groups seeking a share of Fraser River sockeye, in part because fisheries officials had to make some difficult decisions.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada said last September that only 1.5 million sockeye had returned to the Fraser River, well below the 4.4 million predicted.
The lowest return ever recorded was in 2016 when just 850,000 sockeye came back.