Salmon Watersheds Program

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Dissertation – Fisheries-related Collaboration in the Skeena River Watershed: Impacts and Implications of Historical Conflict

Conflict has surrounded Skeena fisheries management on British Columbia’s north coast for decades however limited Skeena-specific collaborative fisheries management research (Jones, 2006; Knox, 2008; Pinkerton, 1996, 2009b; Wood, 2001) has been conducted. The objectives of this research were to identify, from participant perspectives, collaborative successes, challenges, and associated impacts of two historical fisheries-related collaborative processes, the Skeena Watershed Committee and the Skeena Watershed Initiative, and to develop practical recommendations based on new knowledge. While communications-related benefits such as relationship building were identified, challenges such as long-standing historical conflict, collaborative process design deficiencies, and external factors (e.g. reduced commercial fishing opportunities) were found to be barriers to collaboration. Findings suggest that collaboration at a watershed scale may be inappropriate at this time due to a lack of willingness to cooperate, the historical context of conflict, the impact of external drivers, and continued participation of historical collaborative Skeena participants in ongoing fisheries-related discussions. Conflicts identified during both processes were fisheries management-focussed and led to recommendation of a tri-party collaborative governance working group as an adjunct to an existing federal advisory body, the Salmon Integrated Harvest Planning Committee. Recommendations include a Skeena leadership model and practical collaborative process-design guidance intended to address conflict and interjurisdictional issues, provide relationship-building opportunities and enhance cooperative behaviour, and support independent science-related information development to inform Skeena-specific discussions.