DFO director a no show at Heiltsuk herring dispute in Bella Bella
Posted by Zig Zag
“I just got the text. Sue Farlinger is a not coming up. This action is a sign of terrible disrespect,” said Heiltsuk fisherman Frank Brown
An astonished look came down on Heiltsuk people’s faces when it was announced that Sue Farlinger, Regional Director General Pacific Region, was not flying up Monday morning to negotiate a resolution to the heated herring conflict on the central B.C. coast.
Elected chief councillor Marilyn Slett is still locked inside the DFO office on Denny Island, since yesterday evening.
“I just got the text. Sue Farlinger is a not coming up. This action is a sign of terrible disrespect,” said Heiltsuk fisherman Frank Brown to a crowd of thirty, now blockading the DFO office on Denny Island.
Moments earlier Brown was just telling the gathered community members how to “think and act correctly” and to do an honour welcoming protocol for the high ranking official, despite strong emotions against DFO.
At issue is the disputed re-opening of the herring fisheries to gill net boats, in fishery management area seven that Heilstuk believe are in terrible shape.
DFO maintains their science shows the herring levels can sustain a limited catch, but nearly everyone here doubts that information.
“We don’t trust DFO as far as we can throw them,” said William Housty, chair of Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management authority, to the crowd.
Following a hurried conference call to DFO, Heilstuk re-emerged to brief community members. It was official: Farlinger would not be coming up.
The crowd was also advised that three people have chained themselves inside the Vancouver DFO office.
“Because of this Sue Farlinger refuses to come up and meet with his, and that she’s afraid to come out of her office,” said Housty.
“We know this is tactic, a stalling tactic. Many of us have visited the DFO office, and we know those directors have underground access to the parking lot, and so there’s no need to go past those protesters.’
“We also know that Sue Farlinger is not the decision maker. The decision makers are in Ottawa,” Housty added.
DFO was asked to comment on the occupation of their office by elected Aboriginal leaders, and the reasoning behind what appears to be a last-minute cancelled trip.
In response, a spokesperson wrote Monday:
“DFO is engaged in a continued dialogue with the Heiltsuk First Nation. The department was open to compromise on setting aside or keeping closed key areas of the Heiltsuk First Nation for food, social and ceremonial and commercial Spawn on Kelp fisheries. This offer was turned down by attending Heiltsuk representatives.”
“Officials have been involved in ongoing discussions with Heiltsuk First Nation over the past several years and remain open to further communication.”
A long-time land and water rights negotiator said, today’s actions by DFO will keep things hot on the coast for some time.
“Until our right, the 1996 Gladstone right, is properly reconciled and implemented there will be no peaceful fisheries on the central coast,” said Reg Moody, elected tribal councillor.
“What we’re seeing is a building of momentum. Unless government acts in a timely manner, this is a sign of things to come.”
Meanwhile, teens put a ceremonial paint on people’s faces inside the DFO office, that locals say symbolizes a readiness for war. Heiltsuk leaders say they will continue to occupy this island building, and not allow the two DFO officers insider to leave until the herring fishery is closed. RCMP officers are on scene.
BREAKING: Feds resume herring talks with Heiltsuk
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Pacific Regional Director resumed negotiations this afternoon with Heiltsuk First Nations over the controversial herring fishery as protests at DFO offices in Vancouver and Bella Bella grew.
Top DFO boss, Sue Farlinger, landed on Denny Island this afternoon near Bella Bella off the Northern B.C. coast to meet with First Nations leaders there.
“And if we don’t get what we want from her, we’ll throw her in the [water],” joked Heiltsuk resource manager William Housty to the gathered crowd.
Heiltsuk’s elected chief councillor Marilyn Slett remains locked inside the federal fisheries office on Denny Island.
Locals sang and drummed to her and offered prayers and food r through the window.
Slett locked herself inside the office yesterday evening, vowing to stay there until the herring fishery is closed.
Two DFO officers are inside and have not been permitted to leave by Heiltsuk members, who are now blocking the entrances.
RCMP remain on scene, but the situation remains peaceful and respectful on all sides.
Likewise in Vancouver, the downtown DFO office faced protests with reports of at least three people locking themselves inside the federal building.
“DFO respects the right to protest, however the Department condemns any threat of violence or reprisal against those exercising their right to practice a lawful and sustainable fishery,” said a spokesperson Monday in a statement.
There is no visible evidence that First Nations are conducting themselves in way other than a peaceful protest in an act of civil disobedience. Heiltsuk fisherman Frank Brown said he’s disappointed with the way DFO has been characterizing his people.
A sleepless chief councillor Slett told the Vancouver Observer through the DFO office window that this is a principled fight to protect the herring stocks from over fishing.
DFO has promised to reopen the commercial fishing in the area any hour now, and boats are now along the central coast.
“It’s really around the management that happens back east with the [Conservative] Minister, and how those decisions are made,” said Slett with a hushed voice.
“It’s been quite surreal. Our people mobilized very quickly to occupy the building.”
“We have people working around the science, local fishermen too with that trade
“We don’t believe the numbers that are out there that DFO are forecasting, will allow for a sustainable fishery.”
“We think those numbers are way off. If we allow another one — because already had one last week — that will devastate our herring stocks.”
Heiltsuk Tribal Council have issued statement saying they do not trust the federal government’s herring fishery counts. They state that the bio-mass samples used to justify the re-opening were taken over a broad coastal area and have limited local relevance to area seven.
That’s where Indigenous fishermen lower their traditional roe-on-kelp lines, to harvest millions of tiny herring eggs, but not kill the adult herring fish, which are then free to reproduce for up to six years
By contrast, commercial fishing vessels have already scooped up several hundred tonnes of herring when the seine boat catch was reopened for less than 12 hours a week ago amid strong Aboriginal opposition.
Posted on March 30, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged Department of Fisheries and Oceans, DFO, Heiltsuk, herring fishery, herring row, Native occupation, native protests. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.