DFO backs down from commercial fishery banned by Kitasoo/Xaixais First Nation

Three RCMP boats parked at docks in Bella Bella, 'BC.' as part of their operation against Heiltsuk, March 2014.

Three RCMP boats parked at docks in Bella Bella, ‘BC.’ as part of their operation against Heiltsuk, March 2014.


A coastal British Columbia First Nation is claiming a partial victory after federal Fisheries and Oceans officials agreed to keep commercial herring gillnet boats away from waters set off-limits by the community.

Federal fisheries officials agreed to keep the commercial boats out of Kitasu Bay after Kitasoo/Xaixais hereditary chiefs refused to budge from their position.

Federal fisheries officials were trying to arrange a meeting Wednesday with the Kitasoo/Xaixais Nation elected Chief Clark Robinson Sr. in hopes of negotiating the entrance of commercial fishing boats into the bay.

“DFO agreed not to go in, they agreed to stay out,” said Doug Neasloss, Kitasso/Xaixais Stewardship director, in an interview from Klemtu, B.C.

Klemtu sits about 765 kilometres north of Victoria.

Neasloss said fisheries officials would be allowing commercial fishing boats to fish just outside of the boundary line set by the community.

Fisheries Minister Gail Shea overruled the advice of her department officials and opened the herring fishery in the region to commercial fishers.

Shea’s office could not be reached for comment.

The Kitasso/Xaixais First Nation has focused on using traditional practices to grow the herring population in the bay. The community feared the entrance of commercial vessels would devastate their herring fishery. The commercial vessels have quotas of about 730 tonnes each.

“At the present time we have set our trees and kelp using traditional practices and are waiting for the herring to spawn in Kitasu Bay,” read a fishing notice given to commercial gillnet fishers on Monday banning them from the bay. “Just the presence of your vessels can be enough to impact our fishery.”

NDP B.C. MP Nathan Cullen said he was “mystified” by Shea’s handling of the situation.

“I do wish for peace and that this thing will resolve itself. First Nations are doing all they can to protect their fisheries, to protect their way of life,” said Cullen. “They have made many sacrifices over the years…it is a shame this Conservative government doesn’t share their values.”

The decision by the federal fisheries department to stand-down has diffused a potentially volatile situation that carried echoes of the Burnt Church crisis in New Brunswick which sparked in 1999. Mi’kmaq and Acadian fishers clashed over the lobster fishery after the Supreme Court’s Marshall decision.


Posted on April 3, 2014, in Fisheries, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Well, it also echoes the Bundy ranch stand-off. The real problem here is: to whom does the “land” belong and why can anyone drive their vessel into it? I couldn’t decide to park my caravan on my neighbor’s lawn just if I wanted to. And he is probably not trying to establish a biodiverse habitat at the moment which would deserve extra consideration.

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