Nova Scotia

Waycobah men have fisheries charges stayed by Nova Scotia judge

Two members of the Waycobah First Nation have had illegal fisheries charges against them stayed, even though the judge says the men clearly broke the rules.

Judge found fisheries officers who charged the men failed to properly consult with community

Two members of the Waycobah First Nation have had illegal fisheries charges against them stayed, even though the judge says the men clearly broke the rules.

Joseph James Martin and Victor Benjamin Googoo were each charged with breaching the conditions of their community's Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licences by jigging salmon on the Middle River in October 2007.

In a lengthy decision released Tuesday, Nova Scotia provincial court judge Peter Ross said the men "manipulated a large hook so as to indiscriminately pierce the salmon instead of luring the fish to take a hook into its mouth."

At the time of the incident, salmon stocks on the Middle River were dangerously low and the only fishing permitted was a catch-and-release recreational fishery.

Unregulated fishing a 'virtual death sentence'

However, court rulings and fishing agreements negotiated between the federal government and various First Nations communities gave native fishermen the right to a food, social and ceremonial fishery.

That right was balanced against conservation needs.

"Today it is generally understood, whatever the rights issues, that unregulated fishing is a virtual death sentence for fish stocks," the judge wrote.

The judge found that what Martin and Googoo did was wrong.

"The defendants committed a serious and flagrant breach of the terms of the Communal Fishing Licence," Ross wrote.

"They seemingly broke trust with their own leadership and put in further jeopardy a fish stock already under severe threat."

But in the end, the judge found the fisheries officers who charged Martin and Googoo failed to properly consult with the community before charging the pair. The judge ruled that failure was sufficient that a stay of the charges was entered.

About the Author

Blair Rhodes

Reporter

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 35 years, the last 27 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety. He can be reached at blair.rhodes@cbc.ca