Canadian Tribes Practised Sustainable Fishing Before Europeans Destroyed it: Study

The indigenous tribes of Canada practised sustainable fishing for a thousand years to ensure that few important species of fish do not become extinct, but their balanced system was destroyed with the arrival of European settlers in the 19th century, a new study claims. The people living in Tsleil-Waututh Nation, that once thrived in British Columbia, used a method of sex selection while fishing, the study said, adding they did it to ensure the population of chum salmon does not go down for the coming seasons. The study carried out by researchers and archaeologists from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University was published in the journal Scientific Reports on November 10, 2021.

The archaeologists analysed fish bones (dating between 400 BC and AD 1200) taken from different sites of Tsleil-Waututh villages around the Burrard Inlet. They found that most of the remains were of male species. The researchers said that this discovery suggests that indigenous tribes released female salmon back into the water.

Lead author of the study Jesse Morin, an archaeologist with the University of British Columbia, told the Canadian press, “If you take a good number of the males out of the system, the remaining males can still mate with the females to no detriment to the population. One male can mate with 10 females and have just as many baby salmon the next year.”

Researchers analysed fish vertebrae that were collected during excavations in the early 1970s. They used a DNA test to screen for Y chromosomes found only in male fish.

Study’s co-author Tom Royle, a post-doctoral candidate in archaeology at Simon Fraser University, said this is the first time that the polymerase chain reaction or PCR test has been used on ancient fish remains.

The study said that the process of overfishing started with the arrival of Europeans in the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in the 19th century. The sustainable fishing methods were lost with the arrival of Western settlers.

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