Appeal court upholds Nuu-chah-nulth right to catch and sell fish

The B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld the right of five Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations to harvest and sell any species of fish in their territories.

In a judgment released May 18, the three-member judges panel unanimously upheld the 2009 B.C. Supreme Court decision that recognized the Nuu-chah-nulth right.

The Nuu-chah-nulth and Department of Fisheries and Oceans have one year to negotiate and agreement that conforms to the decision.

The court was divided on the precise definition of the right to sell fish.

The court also agreed with the trial judge that Canada’s management of the fisheries has not respected Nuu-chah-nulth’s aboriginal rights.

The court did agree with one part of Canada’s argument by not extending the aboriginal right to the modern geoduck fishery.

The fishery was considered too high tech and modern for Nuu-chah-nulth ancestors to have participated in.

“Once again the courts have recognized that fishing has always been integral to our economy and our culture,” NTC Tribal Council president Cliff Atleo said in a release.

The ruling “…acknowledges our aboriginal right to share in the resources provided by the sea.”

The decision is a win for everyone.

“We have always understood there will continue to be a shared fisheries regime on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, and look forward to creating a fishery that will benefit all west coast communities,” Atleo said.