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Sipekne’katik Chief says band will not fish in upcoming lobster season due to safety concerns

Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Michael Sack speaks with Global News on Sept. 20, 2020.
Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Michael Sack speaks with Global News on Sept. 20, 2020. Alexa MacLean/Global News

Chief Michael Sack of Sipekne’katik First Nation announced that the band decided not to fish in the upcoming lobster season in southwestern Nova Scotia due to concerns of safety.

The fishing season, commonly known as Dumping Day along the south and western shores – Lobster Fishing Areas 33 and 34, is set to kick off next month, but the band will not be launching its nine licenses to fish.

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The band reached the consensus following an emergency meeting Friday with the fishermen.

“It’s a very dangerous line of work and you have people fish next to you who are not your friends. You know, anything can happen. So our people are just terrified all way around,” said Sack in an interview with Global News.

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Sack said their focus right now is to keep pushing for their moderate livelihood fishery, and to make sure Canada upholds their rights to do so.

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Indigenous nations in Eastern Canada have a treaty right to fish or hunt for a “moderate livelihood,” a right that was recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1999 Marshall decision.

Although the term “moderate livelihood” was not formally defined by the court, a subsequent decision ruled that the government has the authority to impose some regulations for the purposes of conservation, subject to nation-to-nation consultations.

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However, with no clear definition in the 21 years since the Marshall decision, the Sipekne’katik First Nation launched its self-regulated moderate livelihood fishery in September.

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A second, Indigenous-run moderate livelihood fishery was launched by the Potlotek First Nation in Cape Breton in October, while Paul announced earlier this month that the Membertou First Nation was planning to launch its own moderate livelihood fishery.