We are the salmon fisheries of Mowachaht / Muchalaht First Nations located in and around Nootka Sound on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Covering an area of more than 2500 square kilometers, Nootka sound is protected from the open sea by Nootka Island. Inshore from this island are several deep fjords reaching far inland to the north, south, and east which are fed by more than a dozen salmon-bearing rivers, making this one of the most diverse and productive chinook salmon fisheries on Canada’s west coast. One of 14 member nations of the Nuu-chah-nulth, Mowachaht/Muchalaht have enjoyed the rich diversity of our land and waters since time immemorial and work today to manage and sustain this rich ecosystem for future generations.

        Our traditional lifestyles are based on a long history of whaling, fishing, hunting and foraging. Our ancestors were great whale hunters, pursuing them far out to sea in large ocean-going canoes from our Community at Yuquot (Friendly Cove) on the southern tip of Nootka Island. While Yuquot is one of our main villages, traditionally we also moved seasonally to Tahsis in the north, and Tsaxana (Gold River) to the east following our harvest seasons. In each these places we would reconnect with seasonal abundances like the spring migrations of herring that sought out our sheltered coves, and the summer migrations of salmon headed to local rivers like the Canuma, Burma and the Gold.

Location and most significant feature

        Yuquot (Friendly Cove) means “where the winds blow from many directions”. Mowachaht/Muchalaht were the first group of the region’s First Nations to have contact with Europeans, when British Captain James Cook and his crew first set foot on Vancouver Island in 1778, setting off more than a century of successful trade with the new colonies. Traditionally, Yuquot was a summer gathering place for the Nuu-chah-nulth, coinciding with the harvest season to celebrate strength, commerce and hospitality. Plans to build a Yuquot Cultural and Interpretive Centre and Exhibition House are underway to showcase historic artefacts and culture, and in 2017 Mowachaht/Muchalaht applied for World Heritage Site status under the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

        For a unique and tranquil experience, stay a few nights in one of our six rustic cabins or camp at one of our wilderness sites. Walk peacefully along the beautiful pebble beach while admiring the breathtaking scenic landscapes and maybe catch a glimpse of a migrating Grey or a Humpback Whales rubbing on the beaches. Stop and listen to the waves crashing on to the beach. If you listen closely you might hear the elders talking or the spirits singing.

        For the more adventurous, Yuquot village is the kick off point for the Nootka Trail, a 5 day hike along the west coast shores of Nootka Island to Louie Bay. Like the West Coast Trail this hiking adventure provides all the majestic wilderness and marine experiences but is the only west coast trail that provides an opportunity to possibly get a glimpse of the island wolves that are and continues to be a major part of the peoples culture and spirit world.





        We will follow our traditional values and principles to guide us in the management of our fisheries so that our future generations may continue to celebrate the richness provided by our creator. Our management approaches are build on a deep understanding of our local salmon populations and our fisheries aim to select the strong stocks while letting the less productive ones return to spawn. We see ourselves as managers of our local lands and resources.


        The Nootka specialized in whaling and seal/otter hunting. Whales yielded a number of tradable food products including blubber, flesh and oil. Their primary trade partners were the Kwakiutl, who were located northeast of the Nootka on present-day Vancouver Island. The Kwakiutl traded knives, chisels, nails, buttons, iron, and any kind of metal (their land provided these types of resources and they obtained some from trade with the Coast Salish) as well as carved works, spears, fish hooks and other such implements. (from the book Building a Competitive First Nation Investment Climate, Tulo Centre of Indigenous Economics).

        One of the most well-known Mowachaht (and more generally, Nuu-chah-nulth) chiefs was Maquinna, who met James Cook in Nootka Sound in the late 1700s. For generations, the name Maquinna became that of the highest-ranking chief of the Mowachaht people. This chief inherited special rights to territory, histories and cultural customs. Hereditary chiefs retain these special privileges to this day.

        In the early 20th century, a Muchalaht man inherited the Maquinna title of Mowachaht, and the remaining Muchalaht who had not died of warfare or disease in the early colonial period moved to the Mowachaht village of Yuquot. Since the official amalgamation of the two nations, the Mowachaht-Muchalaht have been governed by both hereditary and elected chiefs and councilors.

Source:  https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/mowachaht/

Modern Fishery

        Today we continue to hold whales in great esteem but our trade and economy from the sea is focused on our healthy groundfish and wild salmon stocks, particularly our world famous Chinook salmon. Troll fisheries that involve a number of our own fishers target the first chinook salmon to arrive in July, while beach seines and traps help us to select the most abundant stocks near river mouths and let the less productive stocks through to spawn.

        Our fishery off the river mouths and at Conuma fish hatchery are operated directly by the community, utilizing beach seines and lots of manpower taking  just the number of salmon available. These are designed to harvest the surplus not required for enhancement. In these ways our fishing patters protect the genetic richness of this important salmon resource, giving it strength to withstand things like climate change, and building the populations for future generations.

About our Logo

        Inspired by the Whaler’s chief hat or headpiece, the logo of Nootka Select fishery contains the traditional symbols representing Chief Maquinna’s hat depicting the Chief leading the traditional whale hunts, the sea-going Nootka canoe, and salmon as embroidered on the original hat by the Nootka people.


Notable Legends

Re-incarnation: the Story of Luna

        Whales hold an important place in Mowachaht-Muchalaht spirituality. Killer whales are particularly revered as protectors of the seas. It is for this reason that when a lone killer whale was found in Mowachaht-Muchalaht territory (Gold River Inlet) in July 2001, it attracted much attention.

        Since killer whales live in pods (groups), the government made attempts to reunite the whale — known as Luna to the general public — with its pod in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. To the Mowachaht-Muchalaht, Luna (whom they refer to as Tsu-xiit) was not a stray killer whale, but the incarnation of a recently deceased chief, Ambrose Maquinna. The chief had told his people that he would return to his community as a whale; Luna emerged a few days after his death.

        Determined to keep Luna in their territory, the Mowachaht-Muchalaht began a nine-day standoff during which they diverted the whale away from pens set up by the government in order to catch it. These highly publicized demonstrations encouraged discussion between governmental officials and the Mowachaht-Muchalaht First Nation. The two groups eventually began a consultative process to discuss the fate of Luna. Unfortunately, while negotiations ensued, Luna made contact with a large tugboat and was killed in 2006.

        The story of Luna exemplifies Mowachaht-Muchalaht beliefs in reincarnation and a worldview in which nature and culture are connected in a deeply spiritual way. It also illustrates the need for consultation between the Canadian government and First Nations over matters concerning their traditional territory or their spiritual beliefs.

See more at https://youtu.be/IRHKKuVCpHc

Source: from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/mowachaht/