Greens celebrate victory of Kitasoo/Xaixais First Nation in defending traditional territory

Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, today joins BC Green Party Leader Adam Olsen in celebrating the Kitasoo/Xaixais First Nation’s victory in blocking the opening of an unsustainable and environmentally destructive commercial herring fishery on the Nation’s traditional territory.

The Kitasoo/Xaixais First Nation, located on BC’s central coast, had previously requested and had been granted the voluntary closure of critical herring spawning habitat in Kitasu Bay. The herring have been a staple food for the coastal community for generations.

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea had sought to re-open a commercial herring fishery in the area, against the advice of scientists and senior officials within her own department. In response to the Minister’s decision, the Kitasoo/Xaixais Heriditary Chiefs led a protest blocking commercial fishing boats from accessing Kitasu Bay.

In a statement released Monday, Kitasoo/Xaixais Stewardship Director Doug Nealoss and the First Nation’s elected and hereditary chiefs declared that the bay had been closed to fishing, noting that “The success of our fishery relies on the predictable spawning patterns which we have learned, and sufficient abundance of herring, which we have protected in Kitasu Bay since time immemorial.”

Yesterday, DFO officials had attempted to negotiate access for the commercial fishing boats, but the request was denied by Kitasoo/Xaixais Nation elected Chief Clark Robinson Sr. It now appears that the department will not be pursuing further negotiations at this time.

“It was reckless and ill-advised of Minister Shea to contradict her own department’s scientists and attempt to re-open this fishery,” said federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands. “Fishing the herring of Kitasoo Bay to exhaustion would have been an ecological disaster and an appalling violation of this First Nation’s treaty rights.”

“The Kitasoo Nation has stood firm in defending their land and water, and we applaud the peaceful resolution they have achieved,” said BC Green Party Leader Adam Olsen. “Today marks an important victory for First Nations rights, and for the ecological integrity of our coast.”