DFO raids lobster pound, seizes seafood shipment at Halifax airport
Apparent crackdown comes after protests, high tensions over Indigenous fishery
A raid carried out on a lobster pound on Nova Scotia's southwest shore Monday "was a long time coming," according to one local resident.
Gerald LeBlanc was standing on a wharf in Belliveaus Cove earlier this week when he said he saw a slew of DFO and RCMP trucks and cars swarm into the parking lot of Guang Da International.
He could not estimate how many vehicles and enforcement officers showed up, but said the lot in front of the seafood-exporting business was jammed.
"These guys come in, they had it completely closed. You couldn't even get a baby stroller in here," he said. "It's a long time coming."
'It's about time'
LeBlanc said he did not see officers arrest anyone. However, he said he has reported various activities he's witnessed while out walking his dog in the area, three times a day, to both the RCMP and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
"DFO gave me a little bit of hope and when I saw them here — well, it's about time."
The semi-retired construction worker said people in the community of 6,000 have been upset about what they've called suspicious lobster catches and exporting activity. "The fishermen are pissed; enough is enough," LeBlanc said.
In recent weeks, commercial fishermen in the St. Marys Bay area have organized protests, calling on DFO to intervene in what they say is Indigenous fisherman using their food, social and ceremonial fishery as a cover to illegally sell lobster outside of season.
The region's commercial fishing season ended in May and won't resume until late November. The sale of lobster is not permitted in the food fishery.
Lobsters seized at Halifax airport
Lobsters were also seized at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Monday as part of an apparent crackdown. Illegal traps in the area have also been seized as part of the DFO investigation into the complaints.
DFO was tight-lipped about recent developments, but confirmed a seizure had been made.
"An investigation is currently underway into the sale of fish not harvested under commercial licence," the agency said in a statement.
"As part of our investigation, a facility and individuals were targeted by DFO C&P officers on Monday and a seizure of lobsters was made."
Charges coming: minister
Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Thursday that search warrants had been executed and charges will likely be laid in the coming days or weeks.
"I can assure that we are taking measures so that everyone respects fisheries laws and the conditions of their fishing licences," he said, speaking in French.
Tension has been escalating since the protests first begin in September. Earlier this month, a dry-docked boat owned by a non-Indigenous fisherman was torched. That was followed by a fire aboard a boat owned by a Mi'kmaq man.
With files from Stephanie Blanchet