Smelts are a family of small, iridescent fish – meaning that their colours are luminous and can seem to change when viewed from different angles – that can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia. There are 13 known species of Smelt throughout the world, 9 of which can be found in Canada.
The practice of harvesting fish was and continues to be an important traditional practice carried out to sustain our families. But recently, the world has been hit with a viral pandemic on a scale never seen before.
How does this impact the annual practice of smelt fishing? There are a few things to keep in mind as you consider whether or not to go smelt fishing this year: 1 – SRFN’s by-laws, and particularly the Shelter in Place order; 2 – the laws and by-laws of other communities where you might normally go smelt fishing; and 3 – Practicing of safe physical distancing.
To begin, we’ll consider SRFN’s Shelter in place order. It states that people can leave their households for essential activities, and for our purposes, we’ll consider that practicing your rights to sustain your family is essential. This means that, in SRFN, you may leave your homes to go smelt fishing.
The second thing to consider is the laws and by-laws of other communities. It’s known that some communities are either banning or are having discussions about banning smelt fishing this season. To avoid unintentionally breaking the laws or by-laws of other communities, Serpent River First Nation recommends that community members wishing to go smelt fishing should stay within the community. If you leave the community to go smelt fishing, it is your responsibility to obey all local laws and by-laws of the region in which you chose to go.
Finally, there’s the consideration of social distancing. While you may go smelt fishing with the same members of the household, you and any other members of your household must continue maintaining social distancing from people of other households who may be out smelt fishing as well. This means that if you go to your favourite spot and find you can’t reach the smelts while maintaining a distance of 2 meters from another person/household group, you will unfortunately have to either go home and try again another night, or wait until other people leave and you ARE able to reach the smelts while maintaining a distance of 2 meters from people of other households.
To summarize, you may leave your homes to go smelt fishing; Serpent River First Nation recommends that smelt fishers should stay within the community, and any who leave do so at their own risk; and any person or household who goes out smelt fishing must maintain a physical distance of 2 meters from people of other households.
Serpent River First Nation wishes all community members a safe and happy smelt fishing season!!!