Nuu-chah-nulth Ha’wiih demand continued closure of herring fishery due to low stocks

Denise Titian, October 17, 2017

Kiista, Keith Atleo, spoke on behalf of Ahousaht Ha-wilth A-in-chut at the Council of Ha'wiih Forum on Fisheries Oct. 2 and 3. He said not only does Ahousaht want the commercial herring fishing shut down until stocks recover, but they also want the geoduck fishery closed until after the herring spawn.

Port Alberni — 

Concerned about continued low numbers in the herring population on the West Coast of Vancouver Island (WCVI), the Nuu-chah-nulth Council of Ha’wiih have directed Fisheries and Oceans Canada to keep WCVI closed to all herring fisheries, except food and ceremonial fisheries, for up to four years.

The Council of Ha’wiih met Oct. 2-3 at Maht Mahs to discuss, among other fisheries issues, the 2018 commercial herring fishery.

Despite DFO’s report that WCVI herring populations have increased from their low point of a few years ago,  Nuu-chah-nulth Ha’wiih want to see a total recovery before opening the commercial herring fishery.

Kiista, Keith Atleo, speaking on behalf of Ha-wilth A-in-chut, said not only does Ahousaht want the commercial herring fishing shut down until the stocks show a significant recovery, but they also want the geoduck fishery closed until after the herring spawn.

Herring require calm water in order to spawn. Commercial harvesting of geoduck requires the use of water jets to excavate the few feet of mud that is the giant clam’s habitat. The churning up of water and mud is disruptive and would prevent the herring from spawning in those areas.

According to Living Oceans, an environmental group dedicated to the protection of the British Columbia coastline, the Pacific herring are one of the most abundant fishes in B.C.’s coastal waters. Herring directly support salmon, seals, sea lions, whales and many seabirds, and have been an important food source for coastal First Nations for thousands of years.

In their meeting with DFO on Oct. 3, the Nuu-chah-nulth Council of Ha’wiih told the federal officials that they’ve received reports about the 2017 herring returns. “Based on reports and observations from fishers and members on the continued lack of herring and herring spawn in our territories in 2017, Nuu-chah-nulth Ha’wiih direct the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that only food and ceremonial fisheries will be permitted for a period of up to four years or until there is agreement between Nuu-chah-nulth Nations and DFO that the WCVI herring populations have recovered.”

The Nuu-chah-nulth Ha’wiih vow to ensure that the 2018 commercial herring fishery remains closed on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.