Fishing forum > First Nation Rights when fishing in British Columbia

Author Topic: First Nation Rights when fishing in British Columbia
sharphooks moderator

Recent there were questions with respect to First Nation People’s rights when fishing in B.C. I found myself embarrassed as I did not know what rights First Nation people have. I have enjoyed many hours fishing with a native friend and heard his interpretation which by the way is pretty accurate.
With respect to non-tidal waters I contacted cagey’s contact at Fish and Wildlife and got the following response:

Thank you for your email dated July 11, 2014, regarding First Nations rights to harvest fish in BC. Your enquiry has been forwarded to me for response. I apologize for the delay.

Salmon are a federally managed species, any enquiries regarding salmon and First Nations rights should be directed to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. However, in non-tidal waters, the following describes the rights of First Nations with respect to fishing and hunting.

Status Indians, as defined under the federal Indian Act, that are residents of British Columbia are exempt from the requirement to obtain a hunting, trapping, or fishing licence in the province. The definition of “BC Resident” is copied below for your reference.

"resident" means
(a) a person who
(i) is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada, whose only or primary residence is in British Columbia, and
(ii) has been physically present in British Columbia for the greater portion of each of 6 calendar months out of the 12 calendar months immediately preceding the date of making an application under this Act or doing another thing relevant to the operation of this Act, or
(b) a person who
(i) is not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada, but whose only or primary residence is in British Columbia, and
(ii) has been physically present in British Columbia for the greater portion of each of the 12 calendar months immediately preceding the date of making an application under this Act or doing another thing relevant to the operation of this Act;

First Nations that are hunting, trapping, or fishing on the traditional territory of their band can harvest fish or wildlife for food, social, or ceremonial purposes without having to abide by the regulations like open season, gear restrictions, and quota/bag limits. However, all First Nations must abide with regulations regarding safety and conservation, regardless of where they are hunting or angling.

Note that “Traditional Territory” is the land that the ancestors of a particular band used in the 1800s and is a much larger tract of land than “Reserve Lands”. Reserve Lands have no bearing on a First Nations food, social, or ceremonial (FSC) rights to hunt, trap, or fish. Generally, reserve lands are within traditional territory and First Nations will have FSC rights within reserve lands, however the traditional territory is a significantly larger portion of land than the reserve.

First Nations that are outside the traditional territory of their band are required to abide by all of the regulations regarding the activity except for the requirement to purchase a licence. First Nations that are residents of BC do not need a hunting or angling licence (or species licence) and are not required to take hunter safety training. However, note that First Nations that are hunting or angling outside their traditional territory are required to abide by all hunting and angling regulations (except the licences) and it is their responsibility to learn and understand the regulations for hunting and angling in the province.

First Nations that are not residents of British Columbia, and are not fishing, hunting, or trapping on the traditional territory of their band must abide by all regulations, including the requirement to obtain a non-resident angling or hunting licence.

Regulations regarding First Nations hunting and fishing are different for different provinces. For information on First Nations hunting and fishing regulations in other provinces it is recommended that you contact the provincial agency.


Stephen MacIver|Policy & Regulations Analyst|Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Management Branch|Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations|

With respect to tidal waters I contacted DFO and got the following response:

First nations people who are fishing under a communal licence (for food, social, and ceremonial reasons) are required a designation from their band. A first nations person should contact his/her tribal council office to be included in the communal list and to find out where he/she can fish as per the communal licence. The targeted species, the quota and limits will be outlined in the communal licence also.

If a first nations person is fishing in an area that is not their traditional fishing area, then he should seek permission from the band in whose territory he is fishing.

People having First Nations status are required to hold a sport fishing license in tidal waters if they are fishing for sport. This differs from non-tidal sport fishing where there's a specific exemption from the licence requirement for First Nations. Also, in marine waters, they must adhere to the same Sport Fishing Regulations as other sport fishers.

Margarita Schwartzel
Communications / communications
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region / Pêche et Océans Canada, région du pacificque
Vancouver BC V6C 3S4

I hope this post proves helpful in educating all of our members including , possibly , First Nation members. This thread is not open for debate. The intent is educational not to create hatred or controversy.
The Moderator

My question would be,who decides where there "traditional fishing area" is?If it's not limited to reserve land,how would this be proven?Is it on the status card?

Thanks mod, that was a very interesting and informative post.

Regarding traditional territory, each Nation has a clearly defined area, based on paper records and oral history, going back many thousands of years. Most of these territories overlap with other nations and are often mistaken by non aboriginal peoples as fixed boundaries like country borders, which they are not. The traditional territories have been around a long time and have not as yet been disputed to any significant degree.

I for one acknowledge that I am lucky to live and play within the traditional Territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsliel Waututh Nations.

I don't wanna to look dumb , but did fishslayer "override" the rules by his post about coho limit in cap ( mouth of cap ) ?

if he was not included in the communal licence then he was illegal it would appear to me.

well that's a great letter from McIver, but he sure left it completely vague in regards to "traditional territories". he makes it seem like they actually have rules they have to abide by, when in reality they have none. I'd love to see an actual map from the dfo showing all these "traditional" boundaries of all the different tribes.
sharphooks moderator

gearbox, read Knnn's post above. This confirms what a FN friend told me about where he could or could not hunt.

Thanks mod,at least I know in tidal water,if FN sport fish(use rod/reel and line?),they have the exact same right as us.No more no less.

sorry mod, I wasn't disputing it. just that I've never seen a CO even check an FN, let alone get technical and ask them to prove which band they are from and where their "traditional" boundaries are. are the CO's routinely doing this actually? I have FN friends, and they've told me that they don't even stop at the CO roadblocks. from what I've witnessed, most CO's and even police turn a blind-eye in regards to the FN's.

Fishing forum > First Nation Rights when fishing in British Columbia


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