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Smoked salmon in a traditional smoke house on the Stikine River
NEWS RELEASE · 25th August 2011
Babine Lake First Nation
Yesterday’s opening of a smokehouse in the community of Tachet on the shores of Babine Lake marks the revival of a salmon fishery taken from the Lake Babine Nation over a century ago.

For thousands of years, the Lake Babine people operated traditional salmon weirs on Babine Lake and the Babine River, harvesting in excess of 750,000 sockeye a year. But in 1906, the Canadian government banned their traditional fishery, devastating an entire way of life.

Now, the Lake Babine Nation has re-established its traditional fishery in cooperation with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and regional conservation organizations.

“These fisheries are very important to the Lake Babine people who suffer from high unemployment and poverty,” explained Lake Babine Nation’s fisheries manager Donna Macintyre. “Some of the participants live on less than $200 per month, so this income is a major boost to their ability to support themselves and their families.”

“Hearing fishers singing traditional Carrier songs with huge smiles on their face really says it all,” she added.

More than 60 people are now employed to selectively harvest salmon from the Fulton River using beach seines. A second fishery located on the Babine River near the community of Fort Babine is employing an additional 20 people. This fishery uses the DFO salmon counting fence, which was constructed in 1946 at the same site Lake Babine Nation’s largest traditional K’oonze (the Carrier word for weir) once stood.

“This is such a great news story for the Lake Babine Nation. Not only are they bringing significant benefits to their communities, but they are showing the world that these fisheries are sustainable and economically viable,” said Greg Knox, executive director of SkeenaWild Conservation Trust. “Their location and harvesting techniques allow these fisheries to intercept strong runs while allowing smaller, weaker populations to reach their spawning areas. They are some of the most sustainable salmon fisheries in the world.”

Yesterday, a celebration is took place in Spirit Square in the community of Tachet to officially open the community’s new smoke house, gathering site, and campground. Funds for this project came from LBN’s Forestry Department’s Economic Initiatives.

“Harvesting natural renewable resources economically and for sustenance is critical to the health of the Nation,” explained Chief Wilf Adam. “This project provides an important opportunity to express our aboriginal right to commercially sell our salmon, and bring benefits back to our communities”.

“We are hoping to start using profits from our fisheries to build more infrastructure in our communities, which have struggled for a long time” said Donna Macintyre.

The smoke house will provide a facility for everyone in the community to smoke their own fish, and will provide food for elders and community members who do not have access to fish and smoking facilities. The campground will provide revenue to the community from tourists and fishermen who frequent the area during summer.

The fisheries also have the potential to add value to the fish being caught. Often overlooked in the past, salmon caught near their spawning areas are leaner, making them suitable for unique products. The Lake Babine Nations is currently working with Vancouver-based Raincoast Trading to develop new product forms and markets, and is looking to expand future operations to include on-site processing of salmon roe products for the caviar market in Japan and Europe.
A traditional smoke house at Kitsumkalum - Terrace Daily Photo
A traditional smoke house at Kitsumkalum - Terrace Daily Photo
A traditional smoke house on the Stikine River near Telegraph Creek - Terrace Daily Photo
A traditional smoke house on the Stikine River near Telegraph Creek - Terrace Daily Photo
thousands of years?
Comment by fred_brill on 25th August 2011
u got to be kidding...Egyptian and Chinese culture claim 3000 years and look where they are...