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Herring roe fishermen told to steer clear of Haida Gwaii waters

Herring roe fishermen have been told by the union to avoid the waters near Haida Gwaii. - Chris73/Wikimedia.org
Herring roe fishermen have been told by the union to avoid the waters near Haida Gwaii.
— image credit: Chris73/Wikimedia.org

West coast First Nations have won their day in court when it comes to protecting herring in the region.

Late last month the Haida Nation, along with the Heiltsuk of Bella Bella and Nuu-chah-nulth of Vancouver Island, expressed their concerns about a decision by Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea to open the herring roe fishery in their territory. Last week, a federal judge granted an injunction in a suit filed by five First Nations after internal documents showed the Minister went against a recommendation from department scientists to keep the fishery closed.

The Dec. 9 memo to the minister recommended "maintaining a closure for the three areas for the 2014 fishing season". That lack of clarity from the department has the United Fishermen and Allied Worker's Union (UFAWU) "totally frustrated" with the whole process.

"Fishermen have just learned that the DFO recommended to the Minister not to open three herring fishing areas next month, while months earlier telling fishermen stocks were recovered and could be fished ... fishermen are totally frustrated with federal decision making around fisheries – as are First Nations; we are all being used and abused with opaque DFO decision making," said the union in  statement, which also recommends all herring fishermen avoid the central coast and Haida Gwaii.

"At the heart of the herring fishery are 250 independent fishermen. These fishermen are currently hiring crews, building and repairing nets and preparing vessels for the fishery. They run small businesses and make substantial investments in these operations. They operate out of coastal communities and are being increasingly marginalized by fisheries management policies in British Columbia that favour large corporations."

When questioned on the decision in the House of Commons on Feb. 25, Shea defended the decision to offer an opening.

"My decision to reopen the herring fishery in the three previously closed areas was based on the department's scientific advice. In fact, the stocks in question were more than 7,000 tonnes higher than what science required for reopening," she said.

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