Listuguj Mi'kmaq plan to sell lobster without commercial licence from DFO
First Nation government says it will regulate its own fall fishery, Ottawa is monitoring situation closely
Members of the Listuguj Mi'kmaq First Nation plan to, for the first time, sell some of the lobster they catch during the fall fishery in Chaleur Bay, despite not having the federal government's approval.
The Listuguj Mi'kmaq government says Fisheries and Oceans Canada refused to grant the First Nation a commercial licence for the fall lobster fishery in the arm of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, located between New Brunswick and Quebec.
But members took to the waters Monday without a commercial licence and will be "regulated by the community's own law and fishing plan," according to a statement.
The Listuguj Mi'kmaq government, which signed a Framework Agreement on Reconciliation and the Fisheries with Ottawa last November, remains committed to negotiating a long-term arrangement, said Chief Darcy Gray.
"But we cannot be made to wait indefinitely and for no reason for permission to exercise a right we already have: our right to fish and sell fish to address our community's needs," he said.
"If this government is actually committed to reconciliation, then they will support us as we exercise our rights."
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is aware of the "unauthorized" commercial lobster fishery by members of the Listuguj Mi'kmaq First Nation and has officers monitoring the situation closely, spokesperson Barre Campbell said in an emailed statement.
Campbell did not explain why the commercial licence was refused or what, if any penalties members could face.
"The safety and security of all harvesters is a priority for the department. We want to work with all harvesters to ensure that the Fishery Act is followed, and Indigenous fishing rights are respected."
The Listuguj Mi'kmaq government, however, contends that a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision confirmed that the Peace and Friendship Treaties of 1760-61 and the Canadian constitution protect the right of Mi'kmaq communities to fish commercially to provide for themselves.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada has the authority to impose limits on Mi'kmaq commercial fishing, "but only if these limits are minimally intrusive, follow meaningful consultation, and are aimed at achieving a compelling objective, such as conservation or safety," according to the First Nation.
"This has nothing to do with safety or conservation," argued Coun. Sky Metallic.
Listuguj has held a fall lobster fishery to feed the community for the past two decades, but this year, some of the lobster will be sold to offset costs.
"We have no intention of increasing our fishing effort beyond what is sustainable," said Fred Metallic, the Listuguj Mi'kmaq government's director of natural resources. "We have our own law and plan in place to ensure that."
Listuguj also conducts a spring lobster fishery, for which Fisheries and Oceans Canada does issue a commercial licence.