Fisheries minister casts line to Ottawa for lobster poaching task force

Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell says he’s 'very concerned' about the possibility of violence related to lobster poaching in southwest Nova Scotia and he's proposing an idea he says worked in the past.

Keith Colwell is proposing an idea that was used in Nova Scotia in the late 1990s

Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell is proposing a task force on illegal lobster fishing in hopes of preventing violence in southwest Nova Scotia this summer. (CBC)

Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell says he's "very concerned" about the possibility of violence related to lobster poaching in southwest Nova Scotia and he's proposing an idea he says worked in the past.

Last week, representatives from several lobster associations raised the issue of poaching on the eve of the season's close, saying they feared an escalation of tensions that last year saw several boats set on fire and threats exchanged between fishermen.

Enforcement officials for DFO have said they're taking a proactive approach to dealing with the matter and spent months preparing a plan in the lead-up to the end of season.

The Town of Digby, N.S., as viewed from the local wharf. (Michael Gorman/CBC)

Last week, Colwell said he wrote a letter to his federal counterpart, Dominic LeBlanc, at the request of industry representatives, proposing a task force to deal with the matter.

He said the idea is similar to something  that was done while he was minister back in the late 1990s and there was a similar problem in the St. Marys Bay area.

"We did put a task force together at that time," Colwell told reporters. "It included a wide range of organizations from Canada and the U.S. It eliminated the problem at that point."

In the letter to LeBlanc, dated May 18, Colwell proposes the group include representatives of the provincial government, DFO, RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and Canada Revenue Agency, along with support from local industry.

Vincent Hughes, a spokesperson for LeBlanc, said DFO looks forward to working with the province on the matter.

"Joint co-ordination between DFO and the province is important to ensure that unauthorized harvesting and processing activities in the lobster fishery and other fisheries is prevented and addressed," he wrote in an email.

"Fishery officers will continue to have a strong presence in the area, both on the water and on the wharves, to prevent illegal and unauthorized harvesting, and ensure the long-term sustainability of Indigenous, commercial and recreational fisheries in southwest Nova Scotia."

About the Author

Michael Gorman

Reporter

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia who covers Province House, rural communities, and everything in between. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca