HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s second Indigenous-run, off-season lobster fishery officially began operating in southern Cape Breton Thursday, coinciding with Treaty Day celebrations.
Fishers from the Potlotek First Nation headed out on St. Peters Bay to trap lobsters outside the commercial fishing season, which runs from late April to late June.
The launch of the province’s newest Indigenous-run fishery coincided with annual Treaty Day celebrations, which mark the signing of peace-and-friendship treaties between the Mi’kmaq and the Crown in the 1700s.
Nearly 300 people attended the ceremony to launch the boats loaded with lobster traps out onto the water. Liberal MP Jaime Battiste, a member of the Potlotek First Nation, was in attendance to see the boats depart the wharf.
The province’s other Indigenous, off-season fishery, in St. Marys Bay, is run by the Sipekne’katik First Nation. It has faced resistance from non-Indigenous fishers who are angry that lobsters are being trapped outside the commercial fishing season.
Mi’kmaq fishers, however, cite a 1999 Supreme Court decision affirming their Treaty right to fish for a “moderate livelihood.” That Treaty right, they say, allows them to harvest lobster and other seafood year-round.
Sipekne’katik First Nation said in a statement Wednesday they are in talks with the federal Fisheries Department to settle the dispute with non-Indigenous harvesters.
“We had a very positive discussion (and) they recognized this is a nation-to-nation matter,” Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Michael Sack said.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said Thursday that all sides need to keep communicating in order to settle the conflict.
“This is not going away and it’s been 21 years in the making,” McNeil said. “I think the federal department of fisheries needs to come together with the Mi’kmaq as well as the commercial fisherman across this province to find a path forward.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct.1, 2020.
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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.