An official with Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Friday it supports teaching young Skeetchestn Indian Band members fishing on the Deadman River.
But the federal department takes issue with characterizations that it is not consulting with the band or taking action to conserve Pacific salmon stocks that return to the Deadman River to spawn.
Skeetchestn band said this week it is ending a self-imposed moratorium on fishing the small Deadman River, which drains into the Thompson River west of Kamloops. The band is starting a program to show children traditional ways of fishing for chinook and other species on the river.
"It's important for their culture to do these things," agreed Les Jantz, acting Department of Fisheries and Oceans area director for the Interior.
Jantz said the band is correct that the numbers of salmon, including chinook, coho and pink, that return to the system have declined.
Measures to return stocks to historic levels have included drastic cutbacks to commercial and sport fishing on the Fraser River and in marine areas.
But that decline is system-wide and rebuilding stocks takes time, he added.
"You can feel the frustration of Tom (Skeetchestn Indian Band councillor Tom Hewitt) that they haven't seen that."
Salmon in the Deadman River are also susceptible to low water occurrences in winter and summer.
While Hewitt said the band believes sockeye have spawned in the Deadman, federal officials have only one reported occurrence - unverified and by the band itself in 1990.
"To our knowledge there's no other reports of sockeye in the system other than that year."
Jantz said the department meets with First Nations regularly, including with the Secwepemc Fisheries Commission. The commission includes Skeetchestn Indian Band.