An activist group held a rally in solidarity with Mi’kmaq lobster fishers in front of the Clearwater Seafood Market in Bedford, N.S., on Thursday morning.
Group Solidarity Kjipuktuk/Halifax says Clearwater, a Nova Scotia seafood commercial giant, receives special treatment from the Canadian government.
“Demonstrators will protest Clearwater’s industry consolidation and the special regulatory conditions which allow the company to run a massive year-round offshore fishing operation,” read a news release.
The group “asserts that the existence of Clearwater’s year-round off-shore operation poses a serious threat to Mi’kmaw livelihood fishing.”
Sipekne’katik First Nation officially opened a moderate livelihood fishery on Sept. 17 in Saulnierville, N.S.
Mi’kmaq fishers in the area faced backlash from a mob of commercial fishermen that argued the fishery was operating illegally outside of the regular fishing season.
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.
However, commercial fishers have pointed to a later Supreme Court clarification that said Indigenous fisheries could be regulated under conservation. They argued the local lobster stocks could be depleted by the Mi’kmaq before the season begins.
Non-Indigenous mobs have then harassed and intimidated Indigenous fishers while vandalizing and destroying their equipment and facilities they use. The violence culminated in a fire that destroyed a lobster pound used by the Mi’kmaq.
However, Aaron MacNeil, the Canada Research Chair in Fisheries Ecology, told Global News the launch of the livelihood fishery is small, and likely won’t have an impact on lobster stock.
“There’s nobody that would say that this is a risk to conservation of lobster,” MacNeil said last month.
Last week, Sipekne’katik Chief Michael Sack 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, is set to kick off next month, but the band will not be launching its nine licenses to fish.
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.
The Solidarity Kjipuktuk/Halifax rally called attention to how Clearwater’s operations threaten the Mi’kmaq livelihood fishing, said the release.
“It will call attention to Clearwater’s poor conservation record including the illegal practice of storing traps on the ocean floor,” it read.
— With files from Sean Boynton, Aya Al-Hakim.