Assembly of First Nations Congratulates Heiltsuk First Nation on Resolving Fishery Dispute and Standing-up for First Nations Rights

OTTAWA, April 2, 2015 /CNW/ - The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) today congratulates the Heiltsuk First Nation for their successful stand to protect the herring stocks in their territory and commends the Heiltsuk for their commitment to securing movement towards a peaceful and cooperative resolution of issues related to their traditional fishery. Late yesterday, it was announced that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) had agreed to the Heiltsuk First Nation's request that the central coast commercial roe herring fishery be closed so the First Nation and federal government can begin talks towards a solution.

"I want to lift up the Heiltsuk First Nation for taking a clear, firm stand for their inherent rights," said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde.  "The Heiltsuk First Nation repeatedly raised legitimate concerns about conserving and preserving this traditional resource that has sustained them for generations.  That is their right and, more than that, First Nations see it as our responsibility.  The federal government now needs to work with the Heiltsuk First Nation to resolve this issue based on good faith and respect for First Nations rights and traditional knowledge."

The Heiltsuk First Nation, based in Bella Bella, B.C., along with the Haida, Nuu-chah-nulth Nations and other First Nations in the area have all expressed concerns to DFO as well as to the fishing industry about the sustainability and small size of the herring stock, in spite of DFO claims that the roe herring stock is large enough to support a commercial fishery.  The Heiltsuk took action when DFO opened the commercial roe herring fishery with very little notice, leading to yesterday's agreement by DFO to close the fishery and begin discussions with the Heiltsuk First Nation.

"First Nations throughout BC today herald Heiltsuk First Nation for their persistence in asserting their inherent Aboriginal rights to manage fisheries in their traditional territories," said BC Assembly of First Nations spokesperson Chief Maureen Chapman.  "The Heiltsuk have acted based on traditional knowledge of their territories and with the objective of ensuring the fishery and their way of life is protected for future generations. The events and final outcome with the closing of the commercial herring roe fishery highlight the need for DFO to commit to developing collaborative management and decision making processes and practices with First Nations for science, monitoring and stock management into the future."

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.


SOURCE Assembly of First Nations

For further information: Jenna Young Castro, AFN Communications Officer, 613-241-6789, ext 401, 613-314-8157,; Alain Garon, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer, 613-241-6789, ext 382, 613-292-0857,

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