Lax Kw’alaams Band Mayor John Helin spoke to the Standing Committee of Fisheries and Oceans on April 9, 2019 in Ottawa. (Government of Canada)

B.C. North Coast residents to Ottawa: ‘We can’t make a living fishing’

Lax Kw’alaams mayor, Prince Rupert biologist speak to standing committee on Fisheries and Oceans

As the federal government reviews the Fisheries Act, two North Coast B.C. residents flew to Ottawa to present how they think the act should be improved.

There are eight key areas to Bill C-68 and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is listed as number two.

John Helin, mayor of the Lax Kw’alaams Band near Prince Rupert, painted a grim picture of his Indigenous community as he spoke to the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans – how members are struggling to make a living, and his experience with fisheries enforcement officers “racially profiling” members.

“We have a fleet of 70-80 gillnetters that can’t make a living anymore fishing for salmon. We have a fish plant in my community that at its peak, employs up 100 members in the village and we’re having a lot of challenges keeping that operation going,” Helin said.

To keep the fish plant going, they’ve diversified by processing groundfish, but he said with all the other fisheries coming into the area, they’ve lost an opportunity.

“There was a herring fishery in our day in the 70s and 80s, a seine herring fishery, and it wiped out that fish. To this day, that stock doesn’t come back. So herring is a staple, not just for people, but for other fish in the sea that feed off herring. So it’s alarming to us when DFO allows one guy to go out fishing and everyone else agrees to tie up,” Helin said.

Helin said the band wants to sign a comprehensive fisheries agreement with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, but had never done so since losing a fisheries case. He said it’s resulted in members being targeted on the water.

“It got so bad where one of the fisheries enforcement guys boarded my son’s boat, he was fishing my boat, and he had his 10-year-old kid on the boat, and this guy pulls his gun on the deck of my son’s boat without provocation. That went to court and it was tossed out. That shows how we’re treated in our own traditionally territory,” he said.

“When you talk about reconciliation, consultation, they’re just empty words for us. So hopefully coming before committees like this, we can make the improvements that we want.”

READ MORE: Lax Kw’alaams, Metlakatla oppose commercial herring fishery

Earlier in the day, third-generation fisherwoman, fisheries biologist and Prince Rupert resident Chelsey Ellis presented her suggested amendments to Bill C-68, saying more and more licenses and quota are being transferred from fishermen and away from coastal communities.

“For the few young fish harvesters trying to persevere, it’s getting harder to earn a living and find a safe, reliable and professional crew to work with,” Ellis said, adding young people are not joining the industry because they don’t see a future in it.

She called for measures to prioritize and incentivize licenses and quota for “those taking the risks and working long hard hours” to harvest Canadian seafood, and the promotion of independence of owner-operator enterprises within all commercial fisheries.

READ MORE: Young B.C. fishers instigate study on West Coast licence, quota system

To report a typo, email: editor@thenorthernview.com.


Shannon Lough | Editor
Shannon Lough 
Send Shannon email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Lightning causes three wildfires east of Osoyoos

It is believed the fires started by a lightning storm

Revelstokian calling on the city to clean up the Columbia River

The letter writer submitted several photos of the mess along the river bank at Centennial Park

Regional district director working to remove building inspection requirements

David-Brooks hill wants to remove the requirements for those outside the fire protection zone

Revelstokian on Vernon soccer team brings home gold

Vernon Tolko United U15 boys Team win provincial championship and Fair Play Award

VIDEO: Young couple found dead in northern B.C. had been shot, police say

Chynna Noelle Deese of the U.S. and Lucas Robertson Fowler of Australia were found along Highway 97

Lightning causes three wildfires east of Osoyoos

It is believed the fires started by a lightning storm

Air ambulance called to second collision on Highway 1 west of Salmon Arm

Emergency crews respond to motor-vehicle collision near Second Nations Road intersection

Backhoe ‘burned to a crisp’ in South Okanagan

South Okanagan fire chief said the situation could have been a lot worse

Crash closes Highway 1 near Tappen

The collision happened about 3:30 p.m. by James Road

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Kelowna cab driver charged with sexual assault

RCMP received a report May 28 alleging a taxi passenger had been sexually assaulted by a cab driver

Latest plan is to fly trapped fish by helicopter over Big Bar slide

Multi-pronged plan set in motion to freesalmon blocked by landslide in the Fraser River

Controversial anti-abortion film to be screened in the South Okanagan

Unplanned will be shown at the Penticton Landmark theatre

Most Read