Shots fired in Burnt Church fishing dispute

Gunfire was heard during a confrontation between native and non-native fishermen off the coast of New Brunswick Sunday night. It was not clear whether anyone was hurt.

Witnesses said more than 40 non-native fishermen from St. Anne, N.B. got into boats and confronted a group of warriors protecting Mi'kmaq lobster traps.

RCMP said some shots were fired on the water, but few details were released. Police officers patrolling Miramichi Bay rushed to the scene.

There was a high-speed chase lasting about 30 minutes, according to one officer, as an RCMP helicopter videotaped the confrontation below.

By nightfall, the waters were reported to be calm again.

It's believed non-native fishermen went into the area to protest Ottawa's recent decision to close the herring fishery. They're also upset that federal rules on catching lobster don't apply to some non-native fishermen.

Last month Ottawa gave the Burnt Church reserve a temporary licence to catch lobster in the fall under certain conditions including where and how many traps can be set.

But the Mi'kmaq refused to follow the restrictions, arguing they have the right to run their own fishery.

In late August, officers with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans moved in and seized more than 150 lobster traps they said had been set outside the band's boundaries.

The Burnt Church reserve, which has about 1,400 members, has refused to sign a fisheries agreement with Ottawa over the past two years.