Partnership signed to protect char
Northern News Services
Published Monday, November 8, 2010
AKLAVIK - John Carmichael watched intently as representatives from the federal
government, the Gwich'in and the Inuvialuit passed around official papers
calling for the conservation of char in the Mackenzie Delta. He knew their
signatures meant they'd listened to him.
Carmichael, an Aklavik elder, began monitoring Dolly Varden char around the
community 16 years ago and was one of the first fishermen to alert officials
when he noticed the fish were dwindling.
Dolly Varden char stocks have been decreasing significantly around Aklavik and
Fort McPherson for the past 30 years. Last week the Gwich'in, Inuvialuit and
federal government heeded residents' advice and officially took a step to
protect the fish by signing an integrated fisheries management plan in front of
an audience of about 30 people in Aklavik Nov. 3.
The plan is the first of its kind for Dolly Varden char and it encompasses areas
under both the Gwich'in and Inuvialuit land claims, though several Dolly Varden
habitats have been voluntarily closed to fishing for more than 20 years,
including at Big Fish River outside of Aklavik. The GNWT classifies the species
as "sensitive," one step away from being at risk, and the new management plan
recommends that Gwich'in and Inuvialuit councils set harvest caps at no more
than five per cent of the total Dolly Varden stock, which differs from river to
"The numbers were going down," Carmichael explained. "We're just seeing them
come back now," he added, expressing his gratitude that local and federal
agencies saw fit to protect the fish.
Robert Charlie, former chair of the Gwich'in Renewable Resources Council (GRRB),
said the plan was a long time coming and that it couldn't have happened without
the co-operation of all parties, including the Department of Fisheries and
Oceans, Parks Canada, the GRRB, the Joint Fisheries Management Committee and
local Hunters and Trappers committees.
Before his resignation two months ago, Charlie had been working on the file
"People are dependent on the char so they have to help us to manage the
resource. Obviously they are engaged and have helped us when we initiated
voluntary closures. Long-term sustainability is important to them," he said
after the signing. "We have to be part of the solution as well."
P.J. Kay, a long-time fish monitor and member of Fort McPherson's Renewable
Resources Council, wasn't about to miss the official signing of the document.
"It feels great because we've been working at it for a long time," he said,
adding he's glad much of the responsibility for implementing the plan will come
back to local councils.
That means not much will change for Gwich'in and Inuvialuit fishers who have
already stopped fishing in areas where the char were sparse.
"We're just making it official," said Aklavik Mayor Billy Storr.
"We work together for a resource we want to sustain."
The management plan commits the parties to conduct annual reviews of the
region's Dolly Varden stock and make necessary changes to its implementation.
Last year, Gwich'in fishers reported a total harvest of 95 char, down from 6,500
in 1972. The groups' management report points to over-fishing, habitat change,
climate change and an abundance of predators as possible reasons for the
Meanwhile, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada is
considering the status of this Northern subspecies of Dolly Varden and may
recommend the char be added to Canada's Species At Risk Act by the end of this