Haida join coastal nations in opposing herring roe fishery

The Haida Nation is voicing its concerns about a decision by the DFO to open the commercial roe herring fishery in its territory.

The Haida Nation is voicing its concerns about a decision by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to open the commercial roe herring fishery in the area, joining two other coastal First Nations to create a united opposition.

The Haida, along with the Heiltsuk Nation of Bella Bella and the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC), say allowing the fishery to proceed in their territory is a step in the wrong direction.

“The  Federal  Minister  of  Fisheries,  Gail  Shea,  has  made  a  serious  mistake  in  proposing  to  open   commercial  herring  fisheries  in  our  territories”  said  Peter  Lantin,  President  of  the  Haida  Nation.

“Minister  Shea  has  taken  this  action  against  our  specific recommendations  not  to  fish  herring  in  2014. Just  when  the  herring  stocks  in  our  territories  were  starting  to  rebuild,  Minister  Shea  has  proposed  significant  commercial  fisheries  that  might  wipe  out  the  rebuilding that is underway.”

Of particular concern to the three nations is how the fishery is carried out. The fishery uses large industrial purse seine vessels and near-shore gill nets to harvest herring as they prepare to spawn. The three nations allege that after the eggs are stripped from the female to be shipped to Asia, the bodies of the females are treated as a byproduct as are any male herring caught during the fishery.

Although the fishery has been closed for a number of years, a proposal would allow fishermen to harvest 19,700 tonnes in 2014. Of that total, 4,067 tonnes would come from Haida Gwaii, the central coast and the west coast of Vancouver Island. NTC president Debra Foxcraft said the opening is simply unnecessary.

“There  are  enough  herring  in the  Strait  of  Georgia  and  Prince  Rupert  area  to  meet  the  industry’s demand  for  herring  this  year. There  is  no  need  for  DFO  to  open  up  our  territories  to  commercial  fishing in  2014,” she said.