End of 2015 herring-row fishery an escalating regional issue

  • Apr. 15, 2015 12:00 p.m.

By Quinn BenderHaida Gwaii Observer While the CHN may have won their injunction against the 2015 herring-roe fishery, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is throwing his weight behind the Heiltsuk Tribal Council to force a similar end in their traditional waters. Last week Mr. Cullen hand-delivered a letter to fisheries minister Gail Shea from the Heiltsuk, demanding the department shut it down immediately.”The DFO-sanctioned test and commercial fisheries last Sunday occurred without a shred of consultation with the Heiltsuk and with full knowledge that the Heiltsuk are absolutely opposed to these activities because of the collapse of Area 7 (Central Coast) herring stocks,” Cullen said. “The Heiltsuk have repeatedly stated they will not consent to herring tests or commercial fisheries because their traditional knowledge and scientific data show the area cannot sustain both traditional and commercial fisheries.”On March 6 the CHN convinced a federal court judge in Vancouver that the Department of Fisheries (DFO) data on the herring stocks was scientifically flawed. In the Vancouver courtroom justice Michale Mason noted the federal government failed to meaningfullyconsult and negotiate with the Haida Nation about the fishery, forcing its closure until such consultations were held and the data supporting an industry was verified.”There is a real and serious risk of irreparable harm if the Haida Gwaii area is reopened for roe herring fishery in 2015,” he said. Mr. Cullen is now, in part, approaching Minister Shea on the same argument.”The law is very clear that Aboriginal harvesting rights must take priority over non-Aboriginal interests when conservation concerns exist,” Cullen said. “Despite this, DFO has allowed commercial openings in the area year after year, for many years.”Cullen spoke with Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett about the March 22 fishery that occurred without notice to the Heiltsuk. He thanked the Heiltsuk leadership for its even-tempered handling of the incident and continues to press Shea to hold emergency meetings with Chief Councillor Slett as soon as possible.”There’s a lot more at stake here than survival of the stocks, and that’s of huge importance,” Cullen said. “The ongoing DFO-sanctioned assault on herring stocks also threatens the survival of a traditional way of life and livelihood for the Heiltsuk.””And that could lead to a completely avoidable court battle that sets back government-to-government relations with the Heiltsuk for generations.”According to Mr. Cullen, Opposition West-Coast Fisheries Critic Fin Donnelly rose in question period to criticize the Conservatives for “mismanaging the B.C. herring fishery into a state of crisis”.”Why are the Conservatives ignoring experts and the Heiltsuk First Nation and putting this herring fishery in jeopardy?” Donnelly asked.

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