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The federal government has signed an agreement with seven First Nations on British Columbia’s north and central coast that will give them more access to commercial fishing and a role in fisheries management.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson made the announcement along with representatives of the seven nations on Friday.

The government says the agreement means the Coastal First Nations will have better access to existing commercial fishing licences and quota in their own territories and they’ll have a role in fisheries governance, although the Department of Fisheries will have overarching management duties.

Bennett says in a news release that fish are central to the culture and livelihood of many First Nations and increasing access to economic opportunities supports healthy and self-reliant communities.

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Chief Marilyn Slett during a news conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018.JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

Chief Marilyn Slett, president of the Coastal First Nations, says the agreement will get families back on the water, re-establish a small boat fleet and allow communities to fully take part in the fishing economy.

Wilkinson says the historic agreement is the result of years of collaborative work to strengthen relations between the government of Canada and Coastal First Nations.

“The agreement marks a critical step forward and underscores the government’s commitment to ensuring the growth and sustainability of community-based fisheries.”

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