Nations declare solidarity over herring disputes

  • Jul. 28, 2015 6:00 p.m.

A declaration of solidarity that oversees the protection and restoration of herring has been adopted by the Haida, Heiltsuk and Nuu-chah-nulth Nations.”Today, we have taken the first step in what will be a long and important journey,” said Peter Lantin, president of the Haida Nation. “This declaration is a commitment by our Nations to collaboratively protect herring stocks using our traditional laws. Our success in implementing this declaration will benefit all British Columbians by ensuring the health of the herring, and by extension, every species that depends on them.”Over the past several years, coastal Nations have expressed strong opposition to commercial herring fisheries in their territorial waters. Injunctions by the Nuu-chah-nulth in 2014 and the Haida in 2015 successfully halted the commercial fishery in portions of the coast, and a Heiltsuk occupation of the Denny Island Department of Fisheries and Oceans office by tribal chiefs brought national attention to the growing fisheries crisis earlier this year. “For decades our herring have been overfished and mismanaged by the DFO,” said Debra Foxcroft, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. “The last two years have been particularly contentious. Just when it looked like herring in our territories were starting to recover, the Minister decided to open our territories to commercial roe herring fisheries in 2014, contrary to the recommendation of the Minister’s own senior staff in DFO to keep our territories closed until the herring recovered. The Minister acted on her own accord, and in doing so forced our Nations to go to court to protect herring in our territories. After two successful Federal Court injunctions overturning the Minister’s decisions in 2014 and 2015, we seek a new way of doing business with Canada that will properly manage herring as they try to rebuild.”The leaders said the declaration is based upon the inherent rights of First Nations to manage and have priority access to the bounty of the oceans, including herring, and to protect those resources for future generations.”Herring are of vital importance to our people, and we’ve depended culturally and economically on the annual return of herring for thousands of years,” added Mr. Lantin. “As demonstrated again last year, the stocks that remain are simply not strong enough to withstand the commercial fisheries.”

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