Gitanyow Fisheries

The Gitanyow are First Nations people located in northwestern British Columbia. Their main community of Gitanyow (also known as Kitwancool) is nestled on the grease trail between the Skeena and Nass Rivers or more specifically on the Kitwanga River, some 250km from the coast.

The Gitanyow are historically of Gitxsan descent, but remain independent.

Location & Significant Feature

The nation is made up of eight traditional Wilp houses known as the “Huwilp”.  They have a traditional territory (Lax Yip) which encompasses approximately 53,000 km2 (20,000 mi2) of land in the headwaters of the middle Skeena and Nass Rivers.

The Gitanyow speak Sim Algyax, which is part of the Tsimshianic language group, with a long history of dependence on salmon fisheries throughout this region.  The sockeye fishery, including this sockeye catch from the Nass River mainstem and the Meziadin River, is just one part of the Gitanyow Huwilp modern fishing enterprise.


Our mission is to provide high-quality salmon products caught in our sustainable community-run fisheries and to re-invest from every salmon sold into local salmon stewardship to protect this important salmon stronghold.

Modern Fishery

The Gitanyow through their fisheries department (Gitanyow Fisheries Authority) works with other sectors and co-managers to conserve the great variety of salmon stocks that are unique to these river systems and support the biodiversity that makes this region one of the most ecology rich areas in Canada.

Locally sourced sockeye like these are from unique Nass sockeye populations that the Gitanyow have worked to sustainably manage since pre-European contact.

Today Nass sockeye are managed annually by the Canadian government through their counterpart the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and in partnership with First Nations like the Gitanyow and other international bodies. Over the long term, it has been estimated that this renewable Nass sockeye fishery provides an average catch of over 500,000 fish valued at more than $10 million annually.

Most of the Gitanyow economic fishery on the Nass are caught on the Meziadin River, the largest Nass sockeye producing population, which usually makes up 75% of the total return. Gitanyow sockeye are caught at “Lax An Zok” one of their main traditional Meziaidn River fishing locations.

The fishery is done exclusively by dipnet at a location below Victoria falls and the DFO fishway (ladder) where they are accurately counted every year. The Fishway is located some 200 km from the ocean, and it creates easy and safe access for returning sockeye to the productive headwaters, including Meziadin Lake and its three main spawning tributaries.

A smaller percentage (~20%) of the Gitanyow fish are harvested on the mainstem of the middle Nass River, using selective fishwheels that harness the power of water to mechanically dip-net passing salmon into a holding pen where they can be sorted and then harvested or released unharmed.

This allows the Gitanyow to target the species and numbers of fish that will ensure there are also sufficient adults escaping their commercial fishing to support conservation escapement goals and local priority Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) fisheries.

Proper management ensures the salmon’s health

Proper management ensures the health of the next generation of salmon and Gitanyow’s fishing cultures. Sustaining the integrity of the Gitanyow Lax Yip in a way that still provides economic benefits for the Gitanyow Huwilp and other harvesting groups. Dipnet and fishwheel fisheries are also gentle on the catch, so it reduces bruising and scale-loss, generating a high-quality harvest product.  All fish are thoroughly bleed at the time of harvest for the maximum river to kitchen table quality.

In 2011 in partnership with the BC Government, Gitanyow established the Hanna Tintina Conservancy which protected the two main sockeye tributaries of the Meziadin system. In 2016 Gitanyow Fisheries, through scientific studies, discovered that climate change had altered a stream, as a result, it became more productive for sockeye salmon and ended up representing 40% of the Meziadin run.

Gitanyow attempted to negotiate with BC for 4 years to expand the conservancy to include this new important habitat, but due to mineral tenures in the watershed, they would not agree. On Aug 28, 2021, Gitanyow under their own law, declared the entire watershed; Meziadin Indigenous Protected Area, protecting it from major development.

The Gitanyow also holds a full ownership position in the Meziadin Junction Property and Project on Highway 37 North at the junction of Steward, BC, and the Alaskan highway to the north.  At that location, they offer a full-service center; camp lodging, Gas Bar, and General Store where visitors will be able to find our locally-branded sockeye fillets for sale.