Heiltsuk Nation Responds to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Unilateral Decision to Close Herring Spawn on Kelp (SOK) Fishery
Nation is deeply disappointed by a decision that infringes on its rights and will have a devastating impact on the community; Nation is considering options on how to respond.
BELLA BELLA, BC, February 17, 2022 /CNW/ – The Heiltsuk Nation reacts today with extreme disappointment to the unilateral decision by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to close the commercial herring spawn on kelp (SOK) harvest in the Heiltsuk territory as part of the Integrated Fisheries Management 2021-2022 Plan for Pacific Herring.
The decision to close the fishery comes one month before the start of the harvest. It was not made in accordance with the established bilateral process between the Heiltsuk Nation and DFO to manage the SOK fishery and ignores the Supreme Court of from Canada 1996 decision in R.v. Gladstone this affirmed Heiltsuk’s constitutionally protected Aboriginal right to harvest SOK commercially.
“We are extremely troubled by this decision,” said Marilyn Slette, elected Chief of the Heiltsuk Nation. “Since we were forced to protest DFO’s management of the bag spawn fishery in 2015, we have worked hard to build trust and collaboratively manage herring stocks in Heiltsuk Territory. This unilateral decision to close our commercial SOK fishery completely undermines these efforts and threatens to undo years of cooperation. It also infringes our rights.
The Heiltsuk Nation is the rightful steward of its territory and has managed the SOK fishery sustainably since time immemorial. Unlike the roe herring fishery, the SOK fishery does not cause fish kills and is self-limiting because it is only viable when there is plenty of spawning in the harvest area. . DFO’s decision ignores this important distinction between the spawn seine and gillnet fishery and the Heiltsuk spawn fishery.
The commercial spawn-on-kelp fishery is much more than an economic lifeline for the community. Herring has been a cornerstone of the Heiltsuk culture for thousands of years. DFO’s decision to close the fishery does not take into account the Heiltsuk’s knowledge of herring management and will not be taken unawares.
The Heiltsuk Tribal Council is consulting with Heiltsuk Hereditary Chiefs and community members to decide how to respond to this unexpected and deeply disappointing decision by DFO.
SOURCE Heiltsuk Nation
For further information: Louisa Housty-Jones, Councillor, Heiltsuk Nation, 778-913-0632; Andrew Frank, Heiltsuk Tribal Council Communications, 604-367-2112