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Mi’kmaw lobster fishery in Nova Scotia grows to 10 boats

Click to play video 'Indigenous lobster traps removed from Nova Scotia waters' Indigenous lobster traps removed from Nova Scotia waters
WATCH (Sept. 28): Indigenous lobster traps hauled from Nova Scotia waters over weekend days after Sipekne'katik First Nation launch their own self-regulated fishery. Non-Indigenous fisherman are calling for federal government intervention. Alexa MacLean reports.

SAULNIERVILLE, N.S. — An Indigenous-run lobster fishery off the coast of southwestern Nova Scotia is slightly increasing the size of its fleet to 10 boats from seven, creating a total capacity of 500 traps.

Rhonda Knockwood, the director of operations for Sipekne’katik First Nation, says the community’s fishery in St. Marys Bay continued through the weekend and on Monday, with five boats fishing, two being repaired and three more licensed by the band.

Read more: Mi’kmaw power, inside and beyond Ottawa, stronger than in past fishery battles

When the fishery began on Sept. 17, there were seven vessels with 50 traps each, for a total of 350 traps.

The Mi’kmaw harvesters point to a 1999 Supreme Court decision that affirms their treaty right to fish for a “moderate livelihood,” though the second part of the decision allows Ottawa to set regulations in consultation with Indigenous communities and for the purpose of conservation.

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Click to play video 'Haligonians gather at waterfront to stand in solidarity with Mi’kmaq fishers' Haligonians gather at waterfront to stand in solidarity with Mi’kmaq fishers
Haligonians gather at waterfront to stand in solidarity with Mi’kmaq fishers

The Sipekne’katik fishery still represents a small fraction of the commercial lobster licences issued in the fishing area around St. Marys Bay.

The federal Fisheries Department’s website indicates that as of December 2018, there were 979 licences to fish the area, with most permitting 375 to 400 traps per licence — meaning two large commercial boats would take as much as the entire current Mi’kmaw fishery.