After fishing frustrations escalated into an incident in Nootka Sound in late July, the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation has seen tensions calm down among the various stakeholders in the region’s waters.
On Friday, July 29 at approximately 7 p.m. in a fishing area known to locals as ‘Camel Rock’ a conflict arose between Mowachaht/Muchalaht members and recreational fishing vessels, according to the First Nation and the RCMP. This resulted in a recreational fisher cutting a gillnet anchor line, which was lost along with 300 feet of rope.
Along with four other Nuu-chah-nulth nations, the Mowachaht/Muchalaht take part in the T’aaq-wiihak fishery in their territorial waters, which translates to “fishing with permission of the Ha-wiih.” After the July 29 incident T’aaq-wiihak fishers held a meeting with a sports fishing group that has a stake in Nootka Sound.
“Both sides in the conflict came together,” said Kevin Kowalchuk, administrator for the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation. “I was actually at the discussion, it was a very calm discussion, they worked things out. I’m very proud of our T’aaq-wiihak fishers, they handled themselves very, very well.”
Fish stocks and user groups on the west coast of Vancouver Island are overseen by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, but a 2009 decision from the BC Supreme Court gave Nuu-chah-nulth nations priority, ruling that those involved in the T’aaq-wiihak fishery have the Aboriginal right to harvest and sell any species within their Ha-houlthee.
Over August Mowachaht/Muchalaht fisheries manager Kadin Snook and an RCMP officer went to sports fishing outposts in Nootka Sound to explain these rights.
“They visited some of the resorts and lodges just to do a little bit of education,” said Kowalchuk. “There didn’t seem to be any issues.”
The situation has also been helped by better fishing in the region, based on the most recent openings.
“Things seem to be going well; the fishers yesterday were very happy, fishing’s picking up,” said Kowalchuk.
He added that the First Nation doesn’t see many conflicts on the water with recreational boats, the last incident occurring a few years ago in Tahsis.