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Coming full circle? An environmental history of herring spawn harvest among the Heiltsuk

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Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
Date created
This environmental history consists of two chapters. Chapter 1 contends that the Heiltsuk and other native groups maintained their fisheries by claiming harvest zones and limiting consumption therein. Federal Fisheries disrupted these systems based on common law notions that only the state could claim navigable waters. This approach precipitated stock collapses, forcing Fisheries to adopt strategies resembling aboriginal practices. Common law’s legacy endured, however, as demonstrated in Chapter 2. Despite bringing the band additional licenses, the net impact of the Heiltsuk’s suits for expanded participation in the spawn industry remains ambiguous. The courts retained a selective definition of common law that nullified Heiltsuk territorial claims. The unifying theme in this discussion is common law. The same common law assumptions that the state historically used to appropriate and mismanage Heiltsuk fisheries continue to undermine aboriginal fishing rights. This thesis proposes reassessing this approach in light of Canada’s unique geography and history.
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