An Uu-a-thluk Biologist Shares his Passion for Nuu-chah-nulth Fisheries

Central Region Biologist Jared Dick’s love for science began during a class lesson in middle school. “We were talking about how the earth’s warming up, and I found it really scary but interesting,” he said.

After high school his grandparents suggested he go to university, so he applied at the University of Victoria and was accepted. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and my elders said do what you’re interested in and that will make it easy.”

At university, he studied marine biology and environmental studies. And while it prepared him somewhat for his role as a Uu-a-thluk biologist, the university experience offered a broad reach of learning. “We talked about fisheries across the entire globe such as fisheries in Africa,” he said, adding that he found the fisheries ecology management class he took useful as it taught him about models that he’s now employing in his work at Uu-a-thluk. Since university Jared’s interests hit closer to home.

“When I did my first Uu-a-thluk internship I realized just how connected I was to fisheries,” he said. Jared grew up on the Somass River and took part in the Somass fisheries for a few seasons when he was young. He traces his ancestors through the Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations by way of mother Tracey Watts and father Jason Dick. His qu-us name is Uuh-xwinn-mutts, which means “shares the ground with dancing birds.”

During his internships he participated in several projects such as the Barkley Sound test fishery where he worked on a fishing vessel for DFO counting the number of sockeye caught, and taking DNA and scale samples. While a student at UVic he worked for four summers as an intern in the Tommorow’s Leaders program. After graduating in May 2016 from UVic he was hired as associate biologist at NTC. Six months later Uu-a-thluk hired him as the department’s new central region biologist.

For the past few months Jared has been walking the salmon rivers and streams of the Yuu?u?i??at?, Toquaht, Hesquiaht, Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht First Nations to witness firsthand the issues affecting the river systems, with plans to eventually work with all the nations in the central region on habitat assessments. Working with Doug Palfrey, Tofino hatchery manager, Jared has participated in swims in Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht Ha-ha-houlthee, at the Bedwell, Ursus and Atleo Rivers with plans for swims in all five of the nations’ Ha-ha-houlthee. Another big project Jared has eagerly taken on is to assess sockeye returns in Kennedy Lake, the largest lake on Vancouver Island.

He and fellow colleagues are trying to accurately estimate the sockeye returning on that lake each year. Once, Kennedy Lake was the leading sockeye producer on the Island’s west coast with returns from 300,000 to one million. The stock collapse just prior to WWII, recovered and then collapsed again in the early 60s, and has not recovered since that time despite over 50 years of no fishing.

“Little by little we’re learning from our mistakes and building our methods,” said Jared “We’d like to get it back to a productive system on Kennedy Lake that gives food to its elders and its people.” In late November DFO will host a Kennedy Lake sockeye workshop gathering those that are familiar with the lake to discuss the issues and develop plans for rebuilding the stock.

“I was taught by my late grandpa and my elders that we don’t waste the resource, but the way the government has managed it shows a lack of respect for the resource as a whole,” said Jared. “Fisheries should be managed holistically; that’s what Nuu-chah-nulth mean when we talk about hisuk’ish ‘tsawalk.”


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