Burnt Church, Ottawa reach fishing deal

Burnt Church band council, Ottawa reach agreement in principle on native lobster fishery

The federal government reached an agreement in principle Thursday with a New Brunswick band council over a native lobster fishery.

The two-year deal, estimated to be worth about $20 million, was approved by Burnt Church First Nation leaders.

"The best thing about the deal is it will hopefully prevent further violence in the area," said mediator Dave Paul. "But it will also bring some sense of stability to the area and to the fishermen both from the community and outside."

For the past three years, Mi'kmaq from Burnt Church have refused to sign a fisheries agreement with Ottawa insisting instead on a treaty right to haul up as much lobster as they want at any time of the year.

The reserve's stand prompted several violent clashes between native and non-native fishers in the area, as well as with federal authorities imposing a quota on traps. Boats as well as hundreds of Burnt Church lobster cages have been seized by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

Under the deal, the band will be given money as well as equipment to fish according to federal rules. Burnt Church will be allotted 21 commercial lobster licences for the spring fishery, along with a quota to catch a certain amount of snow crab and tuna.