HAPPENING NOW: Lockdown at DFO Offices - Heiltsuk Nation opposes Herring Gillnet Fishery

Protesters, Heiltsuk Nation, 30/03/15

See videos below of Heilsuk Nation representatives from the steps of the DFO building in Vancouver.

March 26, 2015, Release. The Heiltsuk nation and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) failed to reach an agreement concerning the controversial herring gillnet fishery during talks on Wednesday afternoon.

"Industry took 680 tons out of Area 7 with a recent seing fishery, over our strong objections," said Kelly Brown, Director of the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Dept. "A gillnet fisher would only add insult to injury for threatened central coast stock."

Heiltsuk representatives have made it clear to DFO that they would accept a gillnet fishery in nearby Area 8 - a less critical area for traditional harvest - but Area 7 is a no-go sone. DFO refuses to take Area 7 of the table.

"We have exhausted all means of negotiation with DFO," stated Cheif Counciloor Marilyn Slett. "our herring is our future, and we must protect it by whatever means necessary."

The Heiltsuk recieved strong statement of support this week from the neighbouring Kitasso/Xaixais nation, the Council of the Haida Nation, Coastal First Nations, and the Union of BC Indian Cheifs. In a resolution passed Wednesday, Coast First Nations "condemns DFO for their blatant support ofr industry and disregard for Heiltsuk rights and title."

"We will support the Heiltsuk in any way we can," said Douglas Neasloss, Kitasoo Band Councillor and Resource Stewardship Director. "DFO's blatant disregard for this conservation issues impacts us all."

"We are saddened that it has come to this, but we cannot stand by while DFO uses flawed science to destroy a resource we have depended on for thousands of years. Industry must stay out of Area 7," said Slett. "If we don't protect the herring, who will?"

Boats in Bella Bella are now mobilizing to head out to the herring grounds.

1) Prior to the Central Coast opening, herring fisheries had already been closed in the two other contested regions this year. The Haida Nation was granted an injunction by a federal court against the federal government to prevent the commercial herring fishering from taking place in their territory. DFO called off the herring fishery in Barkley Sound due to poor egg samples.

2) In the 1996 Gladstone case. R. v. Gladstone [1996] 723 SCR, the Supreme Court affirmed that the Heiltsuk Nation has a constitutionally protected right to a commercial SOK fishery. The doctrine of priority in times of conservation prioritizes a First Nations Food, Social, and Ceremonial Fishery and a First Nations Commercial Communal Fishery (e.g. commercial SOK) over a Non-first Nations Commercial Fishery.

3) The Heiltsuk Nation contests the legality of the first seine catch on March 22. DFO allowed the industry test vessel to keep the catch from the test set; this set occurred before the 16:48 official opening of the fishery.


More information:

Marilyn Slett
Chief Councillor, Heiltsuk Tribal Council

William Gladstone Sr.
Chief Negotiator, Glastone Reconciliation Office