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

Search for missing Saanich Peninsula pair ends in tragedy

Vehicle found with two deceased occupants inside

Haber nets strong comeback in Pacific FC home game win

Vancouver Island team takes 2-0 win over Valour FC

Improvements to Sinclair Road coming

Development comes after Cadboro Bay Residents Association (CBRA) raised concerns

Saanich councillor open to more commercial operations in local parks

Coun. Ned Taylor had raised the issue during his election campaign

Langford’s Sarah Beckett Memorial playground opens

Life of West Shore RCMP Constable honoured with new playground

VIDEO: Here’s the news you missed this weekend

Some of the top weekend headlines from your community and beyond

VIDEO: Ride to Conquer Cancer rolls into Hope

Thousands of cyclist descend on small town for annual cancer fundraiser

Island murder victim’s mom expresses outrage over mental fitness decision of the accused

Smith vows to keep fighting until justice served for Descoteau

B.C. VIEWS: Pipelines set to roll as federal politicians posture

Projects to drive B.C., Canadian economy in years ahead

B.C. Lions fall to 1-9 after 13-10 loss to Ticats

Lowly Leos have dropped six straight CFL contests

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

B.C. RCMP plane chases fleeing helicopter as part of major cross-border drug bust

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

Vancouver Island man dead after reported hit-and-run incident

Oceanside RCMP seek public’s help gathering information

Most Read