Aboriginal Gillnet Fishers, Scientists and the State: Interactions over Salmon Fisheries Management on the Nass and Skeena Rivers, British Columbia, Canada, 1955-1965

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"This paper examines the interactions between Aboriginal gillnet fishers and the Canadian state over the regulations for the industrial salmon fishery on the Nass and Skeena Rivers of northern British Columbia in the 1950s and 1960s. In particular, it focuses on the discussions and conflicts between Aboriginal people, who comprised the majority of industrial fishers in the region, and state officials and scientists who were members of the Skeena Salmon Management Committee. The Canadian Department of Fisheries had created this committee in 1954 in response to declining salmon populations and a 1951 rock slide on the Skeena system which damaged the sockeye spawning runs. The Committee relied heavily on science to gain legitimacy for their increased restrictions on access to the resource, and made it a central feature of their public meetings. They also relied on it to encourage the native fishers to understand and accept the regulations. This approach did not work as expected. Native fishers continued to challenge the regulations, arguing state officials were unfairly penalizing small-boat fishers, and were overlooking greater threats to the resource such as larger and more efficient vessels and gear types. As well, the Aboriginal fishers also used information fisheries scientists had provided to point out inconsistencies in the regulations, particularly relating to the growing international offshore salmon fishery. Moreover, several Aboriginal communities also complained about some of the Committee's research projects such as counting fences and hatchery programs, arguing that they violated traditional Aboriginal treatment of salmon. While not all of these challenges led the Committee to alter its regulations and activities, some did, revealing the ways that science and management practices can be affected by interactions with groups involved in the process."



Aborigines, fisheries, indigenous institutions, resource management