'It's stealing food off our plates': Mi'kmaw fisher says of DFO seizing traps
ST. PETERS, N.S. -- The Department of Fisheries and Oceans remains silent on whether it will return traps it seized from Mi'kmaw fishers in Cape Breton.
The chief of Potlotek First Nation met with federal officials Friday after the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs has called itsconsultation with representatives from Ottawa a failure.
Mi'kmaw fishers on Unama'ki, as the Mi'kmaq call Cape Breton Island, are getting frustrated.
Craig Doucette was back on St. Peter's Bay on Friday checking his traps and collecting his catch.
He says DFO officers have not yet returned traps belonging to him and which were seized over the weekend.
"It's our livelihood," he said. "It's stealing food off our plates, taking the blankets off our kids at night. I'm just trying to make a living and raise a family."
Doucette says some traps he had confiscated are valued at $200 apiece.
He says the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has sent out letters warning fishers that any gear not containing DFO tags would be seized.
"I can't even begin to explain the frustration," Doucette says. "At one end of the province DFO is standing there watching people take the gear and here they're doing it themselves."
Dalhousie law professor Wayne MacKay says he's surprised DFO has seized traps from First Nations fishers.
"The whole issue is already difficult and messy enough," MacKay said. "I think the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has to get its act together sufficiently so they're operating in the same way throughout the province."
He says officers on the island seem to taking the traditional approach that Potlotek fishers are operating outside the normal DFO rules.
"Minister Bernadette Jordan has made it fairly clear that at the moment they're doing everything they can to have a respectful dialogue with the aboriginal fishers and that they're allowed to pursue their fishery while that's going on," MacKay said.
Back on St. Peter's Bay, fishers are waiting for word on a meeting between Chief Wilbert Marshall and DFO.
"They say it's conservation, but look at what I'm fishing out of," Doucette said. "I'm fishing 30 traps out of an 18-foot boat."
Once again on Friday, inquiries made by CTV News to DFO about the seizure of traps went unanswered.