Investigating Cowichan River collaborative salmon management institutions : The Cowichan harvest roundtable and the traditional Cowichan fish weir
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The structure of fisheries management institutions is changing all over the world, due in part to issues of sustainability related to exhaustion of resources, fiscal responsibilities, and the exercising of Aboriginal rights to access subsistence and commercial fisheries. As a result of direct action and successful legal challenges, coupled by the ongoing negotiation of modern treaties, changes in the way authority is exercised over fisheries management is occurring and co-management arrangements are being formed between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal parties. While the study of co-management arrangements is relatively recent, much has been written about their potential to manage fisheries in a sustainable manner. Located on south-eastern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, the Cowichan Valley is the historical homeland of the Cowichan Mustimuhw (people). The Cowichan Mustimuhw once controlled an elaborate salmon fishery on the Cowichan River by way of their historical fish weir. Years of conflict between Cowichan Tribes and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) over control of the historical weir led to a significant reduction in Cowichan Mustimuhw control over their historical fishery. In 2008, the Cowichan Tribes Fish Committee (representing the interests of Cowichan members) re-vitalized the historical weir for use as a sustainable salmon management institition. The revitalized weir, and, in recent years, the multi-stakeholder Cowichan Harvest Roundtable have emerged as collaborative salmon management institutions designed to sustainably manage Cowichan River salmon harvests. While there is a body of literature devoted to the history of fisheries-related interactions between the Cowichan Tribes and DFO, there is little literature describing the Cowichan Harvest Roundtable and its role as a locally-based, collaborative salmon management institution. Through analyzing the historical Cowichan fish weir and the Cowichan Harvest Roundtable, this research will assess the efficacy of both as sustainable salmon management institutions, and explore the extent to which assertion and re-assertion of authority by the Cowichan Harvest Roundtable and Cowichan Tribes Fish Committee has occurred over the management of the fishery. The methodology for this research includes a combination of semi-structured interviews with both past and present members of the Cowichan Harvest Roundtable and Cowichan Tribes Fish Committee, and participant observation. This research provides a case study of the historical fishing weir and how it has contributed to Western management regimes, and assesses the efficacy of the Cowichan Harvest Roundtable in managing the Cowichan River salmon fishery in a sustainable manner. It is intended that this study will provide valuable information regarding Aboriginal-non-Aboriginal and community-based collaborative fisheries management institutions that can be applied to other case studies both nationally and internationally.
DegreeMaster of Environment and Sustainability (M.E.S.)
DepartmentGraduate Studies and Research
ProgramEnvironment and Sustainability
SupervisorNatcher, David C.
CommitteeCarlson, Keith T.; Clark, Doug A.
Copyright DateSeptember 2011
Cowichan River salmon management
Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)
traditional fish weir