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Fisheries co-management and the Tahltan First Nation: From the Aboriginal fisheries strategy to a treaty regime

Smith, Kristen Lynn





For several years now, the Canadian Federal government's Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy has provided a means for substantial co-management of fisheries resources by First Nations. Unfortunately, there is a widespread lack of understanding of the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy (AFS) by all interested parties. This study examines the AFS agreement of the Tahltan First Nation of Northwestern British Columbia and other fisheries co-management agreements in place in B.C. It does so by comparing them with the provisions and process of development of comprehensive claim based co-management agreements elsewhere in Canada. It also offers an assessment of aboriginal fisheries co-management arrangements and provides insight into sustainable aspects of the regimes. Evaluation criteria were derived from a 1994 study by McDaniels, Healey & Paisley that outlined objectives important in guiding the design of fisheries co-management initiatives involving First Nations in B.C. The most successful agreements and claims analyzed included the following achievements: Aboriginal rights were respected, fisheries co-management regimes were community-based the community's economic well-being had improved, trust and cooperation had been built between parties, technical expertise had been developed, participation occurred at both a local and regional level, and adaptive learning was taking place. This assessment also suggests that successful fisheries co-management regimes do not require ratification in treaties. The Tahltan Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy is a good example, although it could still be further improved. Recommendations for improvement included: the development of a strategic plan; block funding or a trust fund; improved training programs; recognition of a more traditional leadership system; active participation at the watershed level; and improving and supporting local commercial fishery activities.

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