Nova Scotia

Pictou Landing reports peaceful season of moderate livelihood lobster fishery

Pictou Landing First Nation is reporting a successful and peaceful moderate livelihood lobster fishing season after coming to an understanding with DFO on it’s plans for the first time.

Indigenous and commercial fishers celebrate 'peace and safety and unity' with 2022 season

Pictou Landing reports peaceful moderate livelihood fishery season

3 months ago
Duration 2:45
Indigenous and commercial fishers are celebrating "peace and safety and unity" for the 2022 season.

Generations of Craig Francis's family have fished the waters between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, so being a part of Pictou Landing First Nation's moderate livelihood fishery is a big deal for him.

"It's nice to have our rights recognized," he said. "We were given these inherent rights, so to go out and do that on our own and have support with DFO and local fishermen is pretty good."

Francis is one of the community members designated by the First Nation to fish lobster under the plan. It's the community's first moderate livelihood plan with an understanding from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

DFO said when it announced the plan in April that it is another part of reconciliation, with the season running at the same time as the commercial season.

It follows tensions on the water last year. The First Nation said that's when some fishing gear and traps were seized by DFO before being later returned to the community.

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'The number one thing is peace and safety and unity'

This season has been free of incidents, said Alfred Young, the community liaison for Pictou Landing's Netukulimk fisheries plan. 

He credits both parties for putting in a lot of work since then to build a better relationship.

"The number one thing is peace and safety and unity, having everybody come together," Young said.

Netukulimk, Young explained, means use of the natural bounty provided by the Creator for the self support and well-being of the community.

And the community, he said, has been keen to get involved in the Netukulimk lobster fishery.

"There are families out here all coming together in this community plan implemented by our treaty rights in the most peaceful way and we're here exercising our moderate livelihood," he said.

Craig Francis has been able to bring in up to 45 pounds of lobster on some days under the First Nation's moderate livelihood fishery. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

Fishers must use traps marked with tags that are officially issued by Pictou Landing First Nation, which has a total allocation of 900 traps.

It is a plan DFO said does not represent increased fishing in the specified areas of the Northumberland Strait.

Many of the approximately 25 people fishing are going out in smaller 14- to 16-foot boats launched from the beach on the shore of the First Nation. 

Francis, who has been assigned 30 traps, has caught and sold enough lobster to upgrade from a canoe to an aluminum boat this season, allowing him to get out further into the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, where he is catching bigger lobsters.

He is selling his catch for market prices at the Pictou Landing wharf.

Alfred Young said the season's moderate livelihood plan has been a success without any incidents and the relationship with commercial fishing boats has been good. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

"Being able to have our actual catches bought from an actual fish buyer is a big advantage for us where normally we would be catching our lobsters and we would be out on social media saying we got lobster for sale," he said.

The relationship on the water with commercial fishing boats has also gone well, Francis said, with some offering to share bait as they pass by.

"It's really good, I think they're finally understanding we're here and it's going to be a thing." 

5 First Nations have moderate livelihood plans

While some Pictou Landing members have been selling their catch, others have been learning about lobster fishing.

Their catch has not been for sale, but used to feed their families and friends.

"Every now and again we would get lobsters that were market size," said Tamara Young, who went out fishing with her children this season.

She said it has been a season she'll remember, as her daughters helped by doing jobs like cleaning traps. 

"My daughters are with the Albion boxing team, so I gave a few to some of the boxing coaches whenever I could and we kept a few for ourselves," Young said. 

The season opened at the beginning of May and will close on the Canada Day long weekend.

Pictou Landing First Nation follows Acadia, Bear River, Annapolis Valley and Potlotek First Nations with DFO understandings for moderate livelihood fishing plans.



Gareth Hampshire is an award-winning journalist who began his career with CBC News in 1998. He has worked as a reporter in Edmonton and is now based in Halifax.