Harvesting fish for food and ceremonial use has long involved preparation and planning. Not only do Nuu-chah-nulth fishermen ensure they are fishing in accordance with their Nation’s fisheries plan, they also keep in mind any protocol agreements with other Nations affecting their activities.
Now Errol Sam, Ahousaht member and Harvest Management Coordinator for Uu-a-thluk, is asking them to share information about their catch. This information is so important for Nuu-chah-nulth fisheries management, that Sam is launching an incentive program to encourage fishermen to take part. Known as CRIP (Catch Reporting Incentive Program), the program asks harvesters to voluntarily record and report their catches of food and ceremonial fish and other seafood. The benefits include an accurate picture of community needs, along with some great prizes.
“In the past, we had trouble getting catch reports, so we asked what could we do to encourage people to share this information,” says Sam. “People need to get in the habit of doing it, but they also wanted assurance the information wouldn’t be used against them.”
The mistrust Sam speaks about comes from a time when information about food and ceremonial fishing was used to lock Nations into a particular harvesting allocation at the treaty table. The program Sam is promoting is different.
In the new model, fishermen report directly to their Nations, and Nations share only general information about catches with Uu-a-thluk. Although Uu-a-thluk shares this information with the tribal council and eventually the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, no individuals or First Nations are ever named. Instead, the catch information for all Nuu-chah-nulth Nations is grouped together.
“I think once we start documenting our catch report, we’ll have evidence that our allocation for food fish is not sufficient,” says Sam. “DFO’s allocations have not changed or increased for many years—but I really feel that our number is over that.”
Incentive programs like this one are not new. DFO uses incentives to encourage reporting in the recreational fishery. Other management agencies in North America and around the globe also offer incentives to seafood harvesters who report their catch.
The Nuu-chah-nulth incentive program includes a logbook modelled after the one used by Maa-Nulth Nations. Inside the book, fishermen can learn how to report on different species of fish and other seafood. They can also read about vessel safety and seafood handling guidelines. A key to some of the common groundfish species is also included, along with a measuring tape and guidelines for estimating halibut weight from length.
“The tape helps you get a really good estimate of what halibut weighs,” Sam says. “We also included a chart of common B.C. groundfish. There are at least half a dozen species that could be considered red snapper, but which have their own names.”
Fishermen enter information about their catch directly into the logbook and submit to their Nations on a monthly or weekly basis, depending on the species. Everyone who submits a report has their name entered into a monthly draw for multiple prizes ranging from binoculars to VHF radios to an electric downrigger.
“You have a chance to win just for submitting your food fish catch report,” Sam emphasizes. “Reporting your catch also shows other user groups that you are exercising your right to be out there.”
Those rights are enshrined in section 35.1 of the Canadian constitution. Sam believes they also come with responsibilities. “Our Nuu-chah-nulth principles support the reporting of our catch. With this information, we can manage the way our ancestors did—for the benefit of current and future generations.”
For more information about the Catch Reporting Incentive Program, contact Errol Sam at 250-724-5757 or Errol.Sam@nuuchahnulth.org.
A Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation harvester has the right to harvest fish and aquatic plants in accordance with their Nation’s fisheries plans (including any protocol agreements with other First Nations) and section 35.1 of the Canadian Constitution. This right is second to conservation of the resource.
Do You Qualify?
To take part in the Catch Reporting Incentive Program, you must:
- Be a member of a Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation
- Have a valid fishing permit from your Nation for food and ceremonial harvest
- Submit your catch report to your Nation’s fisheries department at the end of each reporting period. Reports must be readable, recorded in the proper units, and submitted on time.