Progress on herring standoff but Area 7 gillnet opening remains contentious issue; talks continue today
A long-awaited face-to-face meeting between Heiltsuk Nation leaders and senior DFO management finally went ahead yesterday at the central coast fisheries office currently being occupied by Heiltsuk members.
DFO Regional Director General Sue Farlinger flew up to Bella Bella amid an increasingly heated standoff over herring fishery issues late Monday afternoon. Following nearly 3 hours of intense talks inside the DFO office which Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett and resource stewardship director Kelly Brown occupied on Sunday, leaders of both groups emerged with mixed news.
“We feel like we’re making progress,” announced Brown from the office steps at around 7 PM last night, acknowledging that DFO had agreed to 2 out of 3 of the nation’s demands – including improved stock assessments and on-the-ground training of DFO officers by Heiltsuk fisheries experts going forward. But on the contentious matter of a possible gillnet fishery in Area 7, no resolution was reached.
“We’re not at the end of the discussion yet,” noted Farlinger, who asked for more time to communicate with leaders in Ottawa. Both parties committed to continue the discussion on Area 7 this morning and are scheduled to reconvene at the DFO office at 10 AM.
Both Brown and Chief Slett stated they would continue to occupy the office pending resolution of the Area 7 matter.
DFO angered Heiltsuk members and strained their trust with the unannounced opening of a herring seine fishery over a week ago amid threatened herring stocks. “That was very hurtful to our people,” Hereditary Chief Harvey Humchitt told Farlinger. “Things have to change.”
The Heiltsuk received support through a demonstration and brief occupation of DFO’s Vancouver office Monday as well. Other actions are being planned by supporters around the province, according to Heiltsuk representatives.