CHN threatens legal action over herring fishery

  • Jan. 27, 2015 4:00 p.m.

The Council of the Haida Nation announced it will resort to legal action if the Department of Fisheries and Oceans reopens the commercial herring fishery in Haida Gwaii waters this year.”Herring stocks on Haida Gwaii have not rebuilt sufficiently to support a fishery,” said an open letter signed by CHN president Peter Lantin. “Continued closure of the commercial herring fishery on Haida Gwaii is necessary to allow stocks to rebuild and to facilitate development of a sound management approach.”This statement is in response to information the CHN received on Dec. 17, 2014, which suggests DFO is contemplating commercial spawn on kelp and roe herring fisheries in the waters surrounding the islands.DFO told the Observer, the 2014 stock assessment and management advice provided by its Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat in early September 2014 shows that herring levels are above the commercial fishery cut-off in all major stock areas on B.C.’s coast, which includes Haida Gwaii.”To provide commercial opportunities while balancing conservation objectives, openings are being considered with a maximum 20 per cent harvest rate in the Strait of Georgia and Prince Rupert district, with a more conservative 10 per cent rate of the West Coast of Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, and the Central Coast areas,” DFO said.The Haida Nation disagrees with DFO’s stock assessment numbers, noting that the spawn in 2014 declined from the year previous. It also rejects the proposed 10 percent harvest rate, which would allocate 1,000 tons for the spawn on kelp fishery and 800 tons for a roe seine fishery.”Many DFO scientists and industry have both indicated a need to reevaluate current herring management models and procedures,” the CHN said. “The current management approach is flawed and based on over-optimistic models with a high level of uncertainty.”Each year, the Herring Industry Advisory Board (HIAB), DFO and the CHN conduct research in the waters surrounding Haida Gwaii, sending divers down to assess spawning in order to estimate a population.Last April, Mr. Lantin told the Observer that HIAB, DFO, and CHN were going to share information, debriefing and deliberating on their findings and data.Both the CHN and DFO have said they are open to engaging in discussion and building on stock assessment information. Hopefully, for all parties involved, this openness to dialogue prevents the complications arising from the re-opening of the commercial herring fishery last year.In Jan. 2014, DFO announced it would re-open the commercial herring roe fishery in Haida Gwaii waters after more than a decade moratorium.Shortly after the announcement, the Council of the Haida Nation stated their opposition to the commercial fishery and united with the Heiltsuk and Nuu-chah-nulth Nations, whose waters were also re-opened after years of closure. The Nuu-chah-nulth nations won a court injunction in February, preventing DFO from opening herring fisheries in their waters, after a document revealed the Fisheries Minister ignored scientific recommendations that the fishery remain closed in the three areas, including Haida Gwaii.The Haida Nation was also successful in preventing fishing in their territory last year, but did so by reaching a respectful verbal agreement with industry representatives on March 17.Just as last year, the CHN has made clear that it isn’t opposed to a commercial herring fishery in Haida Gwaii once the stocks have sufficiently rebuilt.”We do not wish to cause undue hardship and expense to commercial herring fisherman, however the well-being of the herring is in all of our interests, and in the interests of future generations of fishers,” said the CHN.

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