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VIDEO: Herring Crisis Returns on BC's Central Coast

Members of Heiltsuk First Nation explain the roots of a long-simmering dispute.

Tyee Staff 24 Mar

A long-simmering dispute over the harvesting of herring on B.C.'s central coast has once again erupted.

The federal government's decision to reopen commercial fisheries in the area over the weekend sparked protests and anger among members of the Heiltsuk First Nation, who have abstained from fishing over concerns about the sustainability of the stock.

According to the Globe and Mail, Chief Marilyn Slett said the Heiltsuk have two commercial herring licences, but opted not to use them this year.

The central coast has been closed to commercial herring fisheries since 2006, when the stock fell below levels acceptable to the federal government.

Some fisheries briefly reopened in the area last year, but protests kept the harvest to a minimum. While the conflict blew over, experts warned that its main catalysts -- problems with the government's management of fisheries -- remained unresolved.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans maintains that the herring stock has sufficiently recovered. "Science forecasts have shown that the Pacific herring stock abundance continues to support modest commercial harvest opportunities while meeting DFO's conservation objectives," a DFO representative told the Globe and Mail.

The Heiltsuk do not believe this claim, and are currently protesting the harvest.

Photographer and Pacific Wild director Ian McAllister was on the scene over the weekend and produced the video above, which is shared with Tyee readers with permission.  [Tyee]

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