British Columbia

Bella Bella herring fishery to re-open with much smaller catch

The agreement comes after Heiltsuk First Nation occupied the DFO's Bella Bella offices in March 2015, and resulted in a much smaller allowable catch.

Agreement comes after First Nation's occupation of DFO offices in March 2015

A fishing boat pulls in a net full of herring on the Central Coast of B.C. The Heiltsuk First Nation and the DFO have come to an agreement to limit the size of the 2016 catch considerably. (Heiltsuk First Nation)

Less than a year after members of the Heiltsuk First Nation occupied federal fisheries offices in Bella Bella, the two parties have reached an agreement over the Pacific herring fishery.

Last March the Department of Fisheries and Oceans opened up the herring roe fishery in the Spiller Channel, which the Heiltsuk Tribal Council said should have remained closed to preserve herring stocks.

Eventually, after a tense few days, the federal government agreed to shut down the fishery, and the two parties began working on a joint management plan for the stocks.

Marilyn Slett, chief councillor of the Heiltsuk Tribal Council says that management plan is now finalized and the agreement will lead to considerably less herring fishing in 2016.

She said the agreement allows for 215 tons of herring to be caught, which works out to about seven per cent of the usual allocation.

"It's really taking a precautionary approach to this year, so it's something that we could support because it's aligned with our values around the rebuilding of the herring stocks," she told Radio West host Rebecca Zandbergen.

The agreement also closes off some areas from fishing entirely, and grants the Heiltsuk the right to have an observer on DFO boats in the area, Slett said.

Herring fishing usually takes place in March and April, and the agreement between the DFO and Heiltsuk only covers 2016. Slett says that future years will require more discussion between the two parties.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: First Nation and DFO reach agreement on herring fishery