Advocating for the sovereignty of First Nations fisheries for the long‑term sustainability of one our most important resources.

Our Work We advocate for policies that promote equitable laws and sustainable practices for the collective interests of First Nations fisheries.

Fishing is part of the culture and identity that sustains First Nations peoples and economies. The AFN’s National Fisheries Committee advances advocacy strategies that recognize and respect the sovereign rights, self-determination and jurisdiction of all First Nations and promote sustainable First Nations fisheries.

WWF estimates that nearly 1/3 of all freshwater fish species are threatened with extinction.

Indeed, 80 species have already been declared extinct, including 16 in 2020 alone.

Migratory freshwater fish have declined by 77%

Iconic megafish, like the 1000 pound White Sturgeon, have declined by 90% since 1970.

We have supported more than $150 million in investments in Indigenous fisheries.

This includes the acquisition of licences/quotas, the purchase of vessels, training, on-shore facilities and aquaculture.

We've helped create 880 annual jobs for First Nations harvesters and land-based workers.

Our support has included the annual distribution of $183 million to 20 Indigenous coastal fisheries companies.

Overview Working to assist First Nations in fostering resource management and in securing rights to aquatic and ocean resources.

Using consensus-based and collective strategies, the National Fisheries Committee (NFC) works to support the self-determination and jurisdiction of First Nations over all fisheries resources.

We support, promote, and protect efforts aimed at the advancement of First Nations’ Rights and Title, including Treaty Rights, relating to all fisheries – which includes all aquatic and ocean resources, and all related habitats contained within indigenous lands, waters and territories.

The AFN Secretariat supports the NFC consistent with its mandates and the AFN Charter.

Initiatives & Priorities The policy areas, initiatives and committees driving change First Nations fisheries.

Decrimininalization of First Nations Fisheries

The implementation of Canada’s Fisheries Act amendments must now begin to be more inclusive of First Nations, their economic recovery, food sovereignty, prosperity, inclusion, and sustainability in the management of their fisheries within their own lands, waters, and use of their aquatic resources.

The AFN continues to advocate for full recognition and affirmation of First Nations exercising their Indigenous and treaty rights through fishing. The AFN calls on Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to acknowledge the systemic racism experienced by First Nations and to address it through comprehensive reform. Some of these measures could include working with First Nations for guidance through the National Fisheries Council and through the implementation of the recommendations described in detail in the Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans Peace on the Water. Moreover, the AFN plans to continue working with DFO to develop joint protocols between First Nations and DFO for dealing with emergency situations should they arise. Finally, the AFN calls for public safety to guide the response to any and all infractions.

The AFN stands by and supports all First Nations exercising their Indigenous and treaty rights.

Aquaculture Management and Governance

The National Aquaculture Working Group (“NAWG”) is a technical sub-committee table of the National Fisheries Committee (NFC) that provides First Nations technical expertise on various Aquaculture policies, and legislative and program development.

NAWG supports and facilitates the sharing or exchange of information relating to First Nations’ aquaculture management and governance issues at the national and regional levels in an effort to advance the collective interests of First Nations.

The NAWG does not replace consultation or engagement with First Nations but its members may raise their concerns to avoid further infringements on their Aboriginal, Treaty, and international Indigenous Rights.

Protecting First Nations Fisheries and their Inland Habitats

The National Inland Working Group is a technical sub-committee table of the National Fisheries Committee that provides the NFC with First Nations technical expertise on various Department of Fisheries and Oceans policies, as well as legislative and program development related to freshwater fisheries.

From 2019-2021, the Fisheries Sector hosted four technical workshops with First Nation communities across Canada to steer and inform the development of guidance for Indigenous Knowledge. From these in-person and virtual workshops, First Nations discussed the drafting of their own laws and regulations to manage aquatic resources, including fish and fish habitat, in their traditional territories based on Indigenous knowledge. Workshop attendees discuss the development of protocols to ensure the knowledge is respected, accurate, and can be protected from exploitation. The key to these protocols are in communicating their application by Ministers’ decision-making processes.

Oceans, Governance & Transport

The mandate of the First Nations Oceans Working Group was created by AFN Resolution #5/2018 and its scope will be determined annually by the National Fisheries Committee to use its technical expertise and knowledge of First Nations fisheries policy concerns and advise the AFN on fisheries challenges.

The AFN Fisheries sector provides the technical support to the National Fisheries Committee. The First Nations Oceans Working Group reports to the National Fisheries Committee. Indigenous Marine Protected Areas Working Group now reports to the Advisory Committee on the Environment.

In 2016, the Government of Canada launched the Oceans Protection Plan (OPP), a $1.5 billion interdepartmental strategy delivered by Transport Canada (TC), Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Natural Resources Canada that is aimed at protecting Canada’s coasts and waterways under the core pillars of a state-of-the-art Marine Safety System, Stronger Evidence Base, Increased Community Participation and Public Awareness, Preservation and Restoration of Marine Ecosystems, and Indigenous Partnerships.

The Oceans Protection Plan Subcommittee of the AFN and Transport Canada are participating in a joint national assessment of the OPP. The OPP Subcommittee’s goals for the assessment are to:

  • Incorporate Indigenous marine values and ways of knowing into assessment design and methods;
  • Provide an opportunity for First Nations to collaborate;
  • Gain clarity about OPP activities; and
  • Provide recommendations and an assessment framework for the next phase of the OPP.

Documents The latest resources on this topic.

These are our latest reports, resolutions and other documents on the subject of Fisheries. To see more documents on this topic, and all other public AFN documents, visit the Document Library.

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