DFO clings to bad science, refuses to close herring fishery in Area 7
Despite harsh criticism from scientists and First Nations of DFO’s flawed forecasting methods for the health of herring stocks, the department’s Director General, Pacific Region Sue Farlinger acknowledged today that she was unable to commit to the closure of a gillnet fishery in Area 7.
Farlinger flew to Bella Bella Monday afternoon for emergency meetings with Heiltsuk leaders after they occupied the central coast fisheries office in opposition to a planned gillnet fishery in their territory.
“It is my intention to avoid at all costs a fishery in Area 7,” Farlinger told a gathering of upset Heiltsuk First Nations outside the occupied fisheries office. Yet, she added:
“That’s not enough for us,” responded Kelly Brown, the nation’s resource stewardship director. “We worked all night with people to get the proper stock assessment done, which shows that there is not enough herring here to sustain a commercial fishery.”
“If DFO doesn’t have the authority to shut down Area 7,” declared Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett. “And we will exercise our authority.”
The basis for DFO’s assurances that a commercial herring fishery is sustainable this year has been undermined by a retired department herring scientist, Dr. Ron Tansichuk, who has noted, “The forecasting methodology that DFO uses now for central coast herring is actually quite flawed. DFO’s forecasts are likely twice as much as they should be.”
A gillnet fishery was planned to follow closely on the heels of an unannounced herring seine fishery a little over a week ago which angered Heiltsuk members – but a lack of fishable stocks has held back the opening thus far. Yet Brown cautioned DFO again that if one does proceed, “we’ve got boats out on the [herring] grounds and we’re prepared to stop them at all costs.”