International Indigenous Fishing Rights Symposium

Kioloa May 24-26 2024 Report by Janet Hunt

ANTAR ACT has for some years supported the decades-long struggle of Indigenous fishers at the NSW South Coast to exercise their right to fish in line with their traditional law and custom. This struggle has now been internationalised!

Uncle Owen Carriage showing delegates his Country.

Indigenous fishing rights advocates from five countries came together to share experiences and strategise together at Kioloa in late May.

  • The Raporo Ainu nation representatives talked about their efforts to regain the right to catch salmon in rivers in Hokkaido, Japan, denied to them since 1867.
  • Taiwan, which has 16 recognised Indigenous nations, is also making things very tough for the Seediq nation, whose fishing traditions are threatened by both commercial fishing and tourism development.
  • Haida people of British Columbia have used litigation, negotiation and direct action to regain some rights, including, in April 2024, land rights and Haida jurisdiction over two-thirds of their island, Haida Gwai. However, self-determination in relation to marine rights remains unresolved.
  • Alaskan native people make up 65% of all the residents of Alaska,and have achieved legislation that gives a rural right to subsistence harvest for all Alaskans. This represents only about 1% of all fish harvested in Alaskan waters, but has priority over commercial and recreational fishing.
Delegates in the symposium

Participants at the Symposium also heard inspiring stories of success in marine enterprises, marine planning and management, Indigenous participation in marine research and aquatic resource management. The sense of solidarity was palpable as Walbunja people welcomed their guests and shared their saltwater culture with them. The Symposium concluded with an agreement to form a Working Group to investigate how to take their common issues to the United Nations.  The struggle for sea country rights continues.

This ABC article explains more about the issues and the outcomes of the conference. First Nations advocates resolve to put traditional fishing rights under international spotlight – ABC News

Listen to some of the speakers: Indigenous groups fight for fishing rights – ABC listen.

Delegates gathered together.

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