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N.S. fish harvesters withdraw support from Department of Fisheries agreement

A boat loaded with traps heads from a harbour in Nova Scotia. (Source: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan) A boat loaded with traps heads from a harbour in Nova Scotia. (Source: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)
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Fish harvester associations in southwestern Nova Scotia are withdrawing their support from the Kespukwitk Moderate Livelihood Understanding with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), citing “breaches of faith.”

In a letter on Wednesday, members of the Bay of Fundy Fishermen’s Association, the Coldwater Lobster Association, the Brazil Rock 33/34 Lobster Association, and the Scotia Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association said it was understood the “moderate livelihood fishing would be solely for Indigenous harvesters,” and they claim that principle has not been upheld.

“We've recently learned from DFO that they are attaching moderate livelihood access into the community commercial fisheries where non-Indigenous people are present on boats and that's a huge loss for rights-based harvesters for Indigenous people,” said Colin Sproul with the Bay of Fundy Fishermen’s Association. “And it's big loss for our members too because we know it will only perpetuate more out of season (fishing) if people can't access their rights because of their own government's actions and the Government of Canada's actions within the season.”

Kespukwitk covers the area of southwest Nova Scotia.

According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Moderate Livelihood Understandings allow communities to “identify community members who wish to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood under their community-developed plan.”

The Kespukwitk understanding began in 2021. It was renewed with four First Nations groups on Nov. 20, according to a news release from the department.

“An interim authorization has been issued to Wasoqopa’q (Acadia), Annapolis Valley, Bear River and Glooscap First Nations,” the release said. “Renewing this authorization for a third straight year demonstrates our shared commitment to advance the implementation of Treaty rights while providing for a safe, sustainable, orderly, and prosperous lobster fishery.”

Sproul said the associations are withdrawing their support from the understanding to draw attention to the issue and potentially reach a resolution.

“This is a failure of government,” he said. “Nobody is speaking to those Indigenous boots on the boat. And those people deserve to be able to access their rights. The rights do not deserve to be leased out from underneath of them. That is fundamental to resolving the fishery crisis. And it's fundamental to integrating First Nations people in the fishery.”

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans did not respond to a request for comment.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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