Heiltsuk protest shuts out commercial herring fishermen

The Heiltsuk First Nation is claiming victory after Fisheries and Oceans Canada closed the commercial herring fishery on the central coast after members of the First Nation occupied the federal agency's office on Denny Island near Bella Bella.

Four day protest leads to closure of commercial fishery on B.C. central coast

A fishing boat pulls in a net full of herring on the Central Coast of B.C. (Heiltsuk First Nation)

The Heiltsuk First Nation is claiming victory after Fisheries and Oceans Canada closed the commercial herring fishery on the central coast after members of the First Nation occupied the federal agency's office on Denny Island near Bella Bella.

"It is clear that the gillnet fisherman would have liked an opportunity to fish, however in the face of on-grounds interference, protest and the threat of violence, the department had some difficult decisions to make," Greg Thomas, the chair of the Herring Industry Advisory Board told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

The Heiltsuk claimed herring stocks haven't recovered to the point where they could withstand a commercial fishery, and said it had voluntarily suspended its own gillnet herring licenses for the season.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada declined an interview with the CBC.

"We were committed to providing harvest opportunities where they were possible. A purse seine fishery did occur on March 22nd, yielding 690 tons of an available 800 tons. This fishery is now closed," it wrote in an e-mail statement.

"No one wins from a situation like this. There is a process to review the fishery post-season. The industry will be involved in that process … and we'll look forward to next year," said Thomas.

To hear the full interview with Greg Thomas, listen to the audio labelled: Commercial fishermen on herring season's end.

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