Fraser River Reds: The Black Market in Sockeye Salmon, and the Criminalization of Indigenous People

Susan Will, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Stan Beyer

A pilot study about the impact of treaty and laws regulating Pacific salmon revealed that non-indigenous fishers and processors believed First Nations people were taking salmon in violation of the Pacific Salmon Commission's regulations and that they were participants in a black market in salmon. These beliefs are reinforced by news stories that describe how members of a First Nation band were caught entering the US with a truck full of black market salmon. These accounts, do not specify the prevalence of the black market (which most likely is quite small) or its impact on the fishery. However, they contribute to the notion that management and fish supply problems are caused by Indians. Constructing native fishers as criminals helps to dilute their claims not only to the salmon, but also undermines their legal and political rights at this time when the Canadian government is negotiating treaties with First Nation bands in British Columbia. It also obscures what else may be wrong with the fishery in the context of corporate consolidation of fisheries and the increased global sockeye market.

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Updated 05/20/2006