Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Drawing a Line in the Water: Heiltsuk Defend Herring Spawn

First Nation taking herring concerns to Jimmy Pattison’s Canfisco

by Damien Gillis - Common Sense Canadian

A delegation of Heiltsuk First Nations and their supporters will be taking the central coast community’s concerns over a recent herring fishery in their territory to to the Jimmy Pattison-owned Canfisco processing plant in Vancouver this afternoon.

Pattison is the largest owner of commercial herring licences and boats in BC, many of which took part in a highly controversial herring seine opening on Sunday and Monday in Spiller Channel, near Bella Bella. Heiltsuk members were caught by off guard when DFO opened the commercial seine fishery Sunday night without advising them first. The community had declared its territory closed to the commercial herring kill fishery this year due to concerns of the health of the stock.

Retired DFO herring specialist Dr. Ron Tanasichuk 
concurs with the Heiltsuk’s concerns, noting:

The forecasting methodology that DFO uses now for central coast herring is actually quite flawed…DFO’s forecasts are likely twice as much as they should be.

On that basis, Tanasichuk agrees there should have been no commercial fishery this year.

“The stocks are in recovery,” said Heiltsuk legal services coordinator Carrie Humchitt during the opening in Spiller Channel, “but they haven’t reached a level of recovery that can allow this kind of fishing to occur.”

“Our community was misled,” noted Chief Counsellor Marilyn Slett on the manner in which DFO openend the fishery. “We weren’t treated in good faith by DFO.”

Now, as seiners begin delivering their cargo to Canfisco’s Vancouver dock, Heiltsuk members living in Vancouver will make their concerns known to the fishing giant. They are calling on supporters to join them at 3 pm today at Canfisco, on Vancouver’s downtown waterfront.

A parallel rally will be held in Bella Bella this afternoon as well.

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.
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