BRITISH COLUMBIA

B.C.'s Heiltsuk Nation announces closure of commercial herring roe fishery

03/20/2015 11:52 EDT | Updated 05/20/2015 05:59 EDT
BELLA BELLA, B.C. - The latest British Columbia First Nation to condemn herring roe harvesting in its territory says it is closing a commercial fishery as it undertakes its own analysis of fish stocks.

The Heiltsuk Nation on B.C.'s Central Coast says it has given the federal government notice that it will not allow the fishery to open this year because stocks are too weak and must rebuild.

It has criticized what it calls "flawed methods" of forecasting herring returns from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and says it is working with its own team of experts to establish an accurate measure.

The DFO says science forecasts have shown that Pacific herring stock abundance continues to support modest commercial harvest opportunities.

The Heiltsuk Nation is the latest aboriginal band to speak out in a long-standing battle against the reopening of commercial herring fisheries with warnings of perilously low stock numbers.

The Haida Nation in the remote community of Haida Gwaii recently won an injunction to block a planned fishery, after joining two other First Nations to fight a fishery's reopening last year.

DFO spokesman Dan Bate says the department opens roe fisheries in consultation with industry advisors on the ground.

"DFO continues to have dialogue with the members of the local First Nations. DFO Conversation and Protection Officers have been speaking with commercial harvesters on the water to ensure the fishery is conducted in a sustainable and orderly manner," he says in an e-mail.

"DFO respects the right to protest, however we condemn any threat of violence or reprisal against those exercising their right to practice a lawful and sustainable fishery."