April 2, 2015 8:50 am
Updated: April 2, 2015 8:58 am

Heiltsuk First Nation claims major victory in a dispute over herring fishery

Members of the Heiltsuk Nation occupy the DFO building at Denny Island on March 29, 2015.

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A First Nation on the B.C. coast is claiming a major victory in its fight against a controversial herring fishery.

The Heiltsuk First Nation has successfully forced the commercial fleet to leave the waters near Bella Bella.

Heiltsuk members had given the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) until noon yesterday to close the Central Coast harvest.

They say stocks of herring are critically low.

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The decision to shut the fishery comes after a week of protests that saw demonstrators occupy the local DFO office and hold rallies in Vancouver.

Last month, the Heiltsuk said they would protect herring in their territory by any means necessary, after negotiations with the government over a commercial herring gillnet fishery failed to result in an agreement.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans opened the herring-roe seine fishery near Bella Bella in late March, saying there is enough stock to support the harvest.

READ MORE: Heiltsuk Nation occupying DFO office to protest commercial fishery

WATCH: First Nations and environmentalists are vowing to fight a commercial herring roe fishery on the Central Coast, claiming stocks are on the verge of collapse. Elaine Yong reports.

With files from Justin McElroy

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