Haida Nation win injunction against commercial fishery on Haida Gwaii

Mike Vesterback - Haida Gwaii.

A federal court has ruled that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans cannot open a fishery in Haida Gwaii this year.

An injunction was given to the Haida Nation, against the federal government, to prevent the re-opening of a commercial herring fishery on the nation’s north coast.

“This win is another step to building herring stocks, and in doing so, contributes to an economy that will provide a reasonable living for our people, and the path of reconciliation with Canada,” said Haida Nation President Peter Lantin in a statement.

In a November 2014 memo, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans recommended that the herring fishery be opened in all five major areas of the Pacific Region, because stocks were “projected to be above the commercial cut-off level for the 2015 season.”

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The Haida argued that herring stocks had not rebuilt enough to support the opening, and that the department’s management process was flawed.

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In his ruling, Justice Michael Mason said “there is a real and serious risk of irreparable harm if the Haida Gwaii area is reopened for roe herring fishery in 2015.”

He also said the federal government failed to meaningfully consult with the Haida Nation in their plans.

“There is a heightened duty for DFO and the Minister to accommodate the Haida Nation is negotiating and determining the roe herring fishery in Haida Gwaii, given the existing Gwaii Haanas Agreement, the unique Haida Gwaii marine conservation area, the ecological concerns, and the duty to foster reconciliation with and protection of the constitutional rights of the Haida Nation.”

“While these factors do not give the Haida any veto over what can be done in Haida Gwaii with respect to roe herring fishery, or fetter Canada’s rights, and must be balanced with commercial rights and public interest, in looking deeply at the facts involved here, I find that the failure to consult meaningfully with the Haida Nation by Canada, and instead unilaterally imposing a highly questionable opening of the roe herring fishery in Haida Gwaii for 2015, also constitutes irreparable harm.”

A year ago, the Haida joined two other First Nations to oppose a plan to open a commercial herring fishery that had been closed on Vancouver Island since 2006.

Last March, a Federal Court judge granted an injunction stopping the opening, saying the fisheries minister went against the advice of scientists in her own department.

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Justice Mason also ruled that a commercial herring fishery cannot be opened until the hearing of a judicial review application, the completion of a herring management framework, and the completion of an integrated Gwaii Haanas Management Plan.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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