Today, the Sumas First Nation, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), and the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) celebrated a new era of collaboration and cooperation in Fraser River fisheries. This was commemorated at a ceremony in Abbotsford, B.C. with dignitaries from the Sumas First Nation, DFO, the PSC, the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver, and the city of Abbotsford.
For decades, Sumas boats had been prohibited from a section of traditional fishing grounds near Abbotsford on the lower Fraser. This is because the PSC had established a sonar fish counting station there in the 1970’s, and blocked fishing activity near its equipment to facilitate accurate counts. However, this same stretch of river had traditionally provided ideal conditions for Sumas food, social, and ceremonial fisheries for millennia. Consultation and coordination during the site construction was lacking, and misgivings grew with each year that passed.
After decades of entrenchment and stalemate, the three parties came together in 2021 to forge a protocol and memorandum of understanding. This agreement allowed the resumption of Sumas fishing activity near the sonar site while launching new methods to calculate fish passage during the limited hours that fishing occurred. U.S. and Canadian fishery managers endorsed this approach, noting that it would not affect the calculation of sockeye and pink salmon run sizes nor the total catch allowed for each country.
The successful completion of the protocol revealed the goodwill and willingness of each side to find a workable solution that respected indigenous culture and food security and the need for accurate data. Speakers at the ceremony noted the power of such motivation, and hoped this would serve as a benchmark for problem solving in the future.