4 Mi'kmaw bands launch moderate livelihood fisheries with federal approval
New fisheries in the Kespukwitk/Annapolis Valley area win support from Mi'kmaw and commercial fishers
Four Mi'kmaw communities in Nova Scotia have announced the launch of government-approved moderate livelihood fisheries.
In a news release Wednesday, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Chiefs said the treaty fisheries will happen in the Acadia, Annapolis Valley, Bear River and Glooscap First Nations.
The group said the Kespukwitk District Netukulimk Livelihood Fisheries Plan will start Thursday, though not all communities will launch then.
"For the Kespukwitk district, it was important that we built a collective approach to livelihood fisheries for conservation and stewardship reasons," Chief Gerald Toney of the Annapolis Valley First Nation said in the release.
The Mi'kmaw chiefs said they are following the path set out by the Potlotek First Nation to fish and co-operate with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
No fear of gear being seized
"It is important that Mi'kmaw harvesters can exercise their rights without fear of their gear and equipment being seized. That is why we have been open and transparent, sharing our plan with DFO from the onset," said Chief Sidney Peters of the Glooscap First Nation.
The group will manage 3,500 lobster traps.
The federal government also sent out a news release saying DFO continues to work with First Nations across the Maritimes and the Gaspé region of Quebec to implement treaty rights to a moderate livelihood while ensuring a sustainable fishery for everyone.
DFO said members of the Bear River and Annapolis Valley First Nations will harvest during the regular seasons in lobster fishing areas 33, 34 and 35. LFA 35 opens Thursday and the other two on Nov. 29.
The agreement lets the bands sell the lobster.
The bands will pick community members who will work the fishery. DFO described it as an interim measure.
70 traps per harvester, says DFO
Bernadette Jordan is the minister for DFO. She lost her seat in the federal election and will be replaced at DFO when Parliament sits on Monday.
She said the 3,500 traps are not new, but from licences DFO bought over the last few years for this purpose.
"It's 70 traps per harvester, so it's a lot less than a commercial licence, but it does still allow the First Nations to have their moderate livelihood fishery," she told CBC News.
Jordan was asked why the federal government has been able to reach an interim agreement with some First Nations in Nova Scotia, but not with the Sipekne'katik First Nation. It has been operating a moderate livelihood fishery since 2020, but outside of DFO-regulated seasons.
"We're always open to discussions and negotiations with Sipekne'katik. Chief Sack is welcome back to the table any time. We're going to continue to work with those who want to continue to work with us," she said.
Support from commercial fisheries
The Unified Fisheries Conservation Alliance, which represents commercial fishers, said its members support the deal.
"We believe this is an important step in the right direction and are cautiously optimistic this model will have broader application, but there is still more work to be done," said Colin Sproul, the group's president, in a statement Wednesday.
"We are happy this agreement will allow us to move forward, side by side, with the Kespukwitk Indigenous fishers."
Sproul said it was key that the fisheries will fall under DFO's regulatory authority, follow existing seasons, and won't increase the fishing pressure in any lobster fishing area.
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- A previous version of this story said Bernadette Jordan will be replaced as federal fisheries minister on Monday. In fact, she will be replaced when the new government is sworn in at the end of October. This story has been corrected.Oct 14, 2021 10:07 AM AT
With files from Kayla Hounsell