No commercial herring fishery for another year, say Nuu-chah-nulth Nations

Eric Plummer, June 29, 2017

Nuu-chah-nulth Nations are in favour of prohibiting the commercial harvest of herring from the west coast of Vancouver Island for another year to protect populations of the fish. (OpenCage/Wikimedia Commons photo)

Tsaxana — 

Although federal estimates show growing herring populations on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Nuu-chah-nulth Nations are pushing for the closure of the commercial fishery for another year, citing the continued fragility of the species.

Representatives from Nuu-chah-nulth Nations met in Tsaxana, near Gold River, B.C., for the Council of Ha’wiih Forum on Fisheries June 14 and 15. The Nations agreed to support the closure of the commercial herring fishery in their Ha-ha-houlthee in 2018, a repeat of the decision made at the fisheries forum last year. Fisheries and Oceans Canada prohibited a commercial herring fishery in the region this year, but a federal decision for next year has yet to be announced.

On the other side of Vancouver Island the situation has been entirely different, where an abundance of herring amassed ankle-deep piles of roe on beaches in Parksville this spring. But on the Island’s west coast populations remain modest; the model federal officials have followed in recent years show a median estimate of just 17,862 tonnes in 2016. Although this figure has grown from 6,287 tonnes of herring in 2012, the estimate remained well below a population deemed able to sustain a commercial harvest.

During the forum concern was also raised over how the commercial harvest of geoduck clams around Ahousaht could be affecting herring. The First Nation put forth a motion for the DFO to research how this practice is impacting the fish – and for the federal department to close the geoduck fishery between January and April. This motion was approved.

Ahousaht Aww-uup-awiik Kiista (Keith Atleo), who was among the First Nation’s representatives at the forum, spoke of the impact geoduck harvesters have had on the community’s coast.

“You need to hold them accountable,” said Kiista to the DFO representatives in attendance. “All they care about is money, while it’s impacting our communities.”

Councillor Archie Little of the Nuchatlaht First Nation stated that the federal system for managing the harvest of the large clams is not working.

“We’ve been fighting to save the herring for years,” he said, adding that he supports shutting down the geoduck fishery around Ahousaht. “It’s the quota system where DFO does not manage the resources anymore.”

“I take this very seriously,” responded Dr. Laura Brown, Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Pacific south coast area director.

Regardless of what the federal department decides for 2018, the record of decisions from the Council of Ha’wiih Forum on Fisheries states that “Nations will take whatever measures are necessary to make sure commercial herring fisheries don’t take place.”