Listuguj, Ottawa agree to collaborate on fishery regulations
Partnership opens door for moderative livelihood fishery
Members of Listuguj First Nation hope a new fisheries agreement with the federal government will result in greater local control and economic growth.
The Mi'kmaw community in Quebec, just across the river from Campbellton, N.B., has agreed to a five-year rights reconciliation agreement with the Minister of Fisheries and the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.
It could open the door for additional fisheries access through licences and modified quotas, including the possible establishment of a moderate livelihood fishery.
Listuguj Chief Darcy Gray said the framework is a "huge step forward" after holding talks with the federal government over the past 4½ years.
"For us, the agreement sets the table that we can have those discussions in a collaborative way, and not perhaps continue on in a way that may create mistrust or animosity as we've seen in the past," he said.
The deal aims to improve relations between the government and the First Nation, and includes a commitment to upholding the treaty right to harvest and sell fish in pursuit of a livelihood. It also includes plans for collaborative discussion tables on fisheries management.
Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said the agreement will bring greater opportunity and prosperity to the Listuguj people and fishing communities in Quebec and New Brunswick.
"It demonstrates true partnership between our nations, achieved through the spirit of reconciliation," she said in a statement.
Members of Listuguj have been managing the Restigouche River for close to 30 years, fishing for salmon, lobster, snow crab, rock crab and shrimp.
Gray said discussions with Ottawa could include sustainability and access to fisheries for food and livelihood.
For the past two seasons, Listuguj has had its own lobster management plan in place to guide the fishery, with a focus on conservation.
Quotas and licence conditions are developed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the community has been required to draft its own plans within those rules up until this point.
Gray said he hopes the commitment to collaborate will allow for more flexibility in quotas, such as fishing to sell some of the catch.
"Where this agreement is a little different is we have an opportunity to speak directly with Canada about those licence conditions and how they could be different and how we could implement them in a good way," he said.
"It's not the end by any means, but just the start of something that could be very significant for us as a community."