Members of the Lax Kw’alaams Band are staging a large demonstration in the waters off of Prince Rupert after Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced a herring opening this morning.
A large fleet of vessels owned by commercial fishermen from the community will be interfering with the fishing operations of the one license holder granted access to a herring spawn on kelp opening in the Central Coast and Prince Rupert district. This after DFO went against the local knowledge and advice of the Lax Kw’alaams Band and Metlakatla First Nation, who agree all commercial herring harvesting must cease until herring stocks recover.
“The Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla Councils, technical staff, and membership all agree the herring stocks within the Prince Rupert district are too small and do not support commercial herring or herring roe fisheries,” says Lax Kw’alaams Mayor John Helin. “Yet DFO is still allowing one licensed boat, owned by a non-Indigenous individual, to fish until May 1st.”
The Lax Kw’alaams demonstration will continue for weeks, or until DFO agrees to a plan that works for all sides. This demonstration will only grow larger in the coming days, as Lax Kw’alaams vessels are joined by boats from the Metlakatla First Nation.
“First Nations’ wellbeing is tied to our environment, which profoundly depends on healthy herring stocks,” continues Mayor Helin. “For many years, our Food, Social, and Ceremonial needs have not been met for herring eggs or for the many fish species that depend on it. Our people need the opportunity to provide their families this most valuable food.”