PEI

Lennox Island, DFO reach 'interim understanding' on lobster treaty fishery

P.E.I.'s Lennox Island First Nation says it has reached an interim understanding with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to continue the lobster treaty fishery that launched earlier this month.

The treaty fishery will proceed based on a total maximum of 1,000 traps, according to a release

Lennox Island Chief Darlene Bernard calls the understanding good news for her community. (Tony Davis/CBC)

P.E.I.'s Lennox Island First Nation says it has reached an interim understanding with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to continue the lobster treaty fishery that launched earlier this month.

The fishery hadn't been authorized by DFO before it launched on May 7, which meant it could have been subject to enforcement including trap seizures or fines.

"We have continued discussions with DFO in the hopes of reaching some kind of understanding that would see our community members able to exercise our treaty right to fish and harvest lobster, while respecting conservation and sustainability," Chief Darlene Bernard said in a written release.

"I have always remained positive that we could reach an understanding and I'm happy to receive DFO's support for our management plan which will ensure the safety and security of our members while on the water and of their gear and equipment which is very important to us."

None of the traps set out over the weekend were seized or disturbed by fisheries officers, but some treaty fishers told CBC News they had had trouble launching boats because local boat-moving companies said non-Indigenous fishermen had threatened to boycott them.

'Good news for our community'

CBC News spoke with a handful of non-Indigenous fishermen, none of whom would agree to a taped interview, earlier this week. 

Crews on three boats said fishing without a licence has the potential to damage lobster stocks, and suggested some commercial fishermen might choose to take action if DFO didn't which is what happened last year in Nova Scotia.

According to the release, there is no signed agreement in place but the understanding between Lennox Island First Nation and DFO will allow the treaty-protected fishery to proceed unimpeded in accordance with the Band management plans.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Thursday that Lennox Island First Nation will fish up to 300 traps in LFA 24 during the remainder of the spring 2022 commercial lobster season, and fish up to 700 traps in LFA 25 during the fall 2022 season.

"Management measures will be similar to the commercial lobster fishery, including traps standards and minimum carapace size, Species at Risk Act requirements, and marine mammal protection measures such as gear marking," the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said.

"Fishery officers continue to patrol to verify compliance and to promote peaceful and orderly fisheries."

In the water, a fisherman stands in a dory full of lobster traps.
A dory was one of two treaty-approved boats which left the Lennox Island harbour over the weekend. (CBC/Brian Higgins)

"This is good news for our community. I am very proud of the effort and work of so many on Lennox Island who have contributed to the development and implementation of our Treaty Protected Fishery management plan and of everyone who has helped us to get to this historic point," Bernard said in the release.

"It is important that Mi'kmaq fishers can exercise their rights without fear of their gear or equipment being seized or vandalized. That is why we have been transparent, sharing our plan with DFO from the onset and continuing to be open to discussions ... Our discussions will also continue with DFO to expand our communal commercial access."

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