Fisheries minister ignored advice from own scientists

When federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea approved the reopening of commercial herring roe fisheries on First Nations’ territories in British Columbia, she ignored the recommendations of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) scientists.

This was revealed in an internal DFO document released yesterday during a court hearing of five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations’ injunction against DFO’s proposal to reopen the west coast of Vancouver Island to commercial herring roe fisheries in 2014.

In a memorandum addressed to the minister on Dec. 9 2013, DFO scientists recommend maintaining the closure of the areas around the west coast of Vancouver Island, the central coast and Haida Gwaii for the 2014 fishing season.

Despite the advice, Shea announced on Dec. 23, 2013 that the three areas would be reopened to commercial herring roe fisheries at a harvest rate of 10 per cent in 2014.

“The minister clearly ignored the advice of her own internal experts,” said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo during a press conference in front of the Federal Court Building in Vancouver. “There is a pattern of decision making within governments where advice is offered to a minister and then ignored just as in this case.”

Atleo remarked that the current legal action is but another example of the federal government overruling concerns of First Nations, which then results in conflicts that have to be settled in courts.

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