Nova Scotia lobster fishermen protest, looking for better stewardship of stock
BRIDGEWATER, N.S. -- Nova Scotia lobster fishermen and their families gathered in front of the federal fisheries minister's office Thursday over concerns for their catch.
"We have asked for a couple of really simple requests from the federal government, repeatedly, over the last three years that we could be at the table in any discussions regarding the sustainability of our fishery and that the government would enforce already existing sustainability laws on that books that they are refusing to enforce because of politics," said Colin Sproul of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association.
They're protesting because they want the feds to handle "illegal" and out-of-season fishing activities in regional waters.
Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan did not attend, but in a statement to CTV News, she says in part:
"I take all allegations of illegal fishing very seriously and respect people's right to gather for peaceful protest. It is important to note that First Nation communities in Nova Scotia have a recognized right to harvest lobster for food, social, and ceremonial purposes outside of the regular commercial season. DFO supports this through issuing FSC licences each year, and associated tags for FSC traps.
"It is imperative that we work together to maintain orderly and sustainable fisheries, to respect the rights of First Nation harvesters and to ensure coastal communities continue to thrive."
The Conservative MP for West Nova says, while he is respectful of Indigenous people's rights, he has heard from many concerned fishermen in the area who say their livelihood is on the line.
"I don't want this to turn into a big all-out fight, but we need DFO to do their job and actually look at the conservation of that stock," said Chris d'Entremont.
On Wednesday, the owner of a lobster pound in Digby County was found guilty in the illegal sale of lobsters.
Sheng Ren Zheng and his company in Belliveau's Cove were nabbed selling lobsters caught by Indigenous fishermen in 2017.
In her statement, Jordan adds:
"DFO's fisheries management team continues to engage with Indigenous communities to ensure that FSC needs are well understood while promoting measures for the proper management, control and oversight of these fisheries.
"The DFO Fisheries Management and Conservation & Protection (C&P) teams have been alerted to reports of illegal fishing in certain areas of Nova Scotia. I encourage anyone who has information on suspected illegal fishing, purchasing, or selling, to report it by contacting your local C&P detachment or toll-free at 1-800-565-1633. All information provided to fishery officers is reviewed, and actions are undertaken to investigate. As a reminder, we cannot comment on active investigations. However, when an investigation concludes that there are reasonable, probable grounds to pursue charges, C&P works with the Public Prosecution Services of Canada to bring cases to trial. This year, actions have been taken to remove illegal fishing gear and investigations are ongoing."
In a statement to CTV News, the lead negotiator for the Mi'kmaq Rights Initiative says in part:
"Currently, we are working with our own community members on their right to a moderate livelihood, how we can conduct a sustainable harvest and their voices are leading the development of long-term management solutions to ensure our fishery is truly sustainable. We want a better way forward."
"Our message is not being delivered and the MPs have got to start to realize that they're going to be held accountable -- whenever the next election is -- if our message isn't brought forward --and we don't believe right now it is -- by anybody," said Bernie Berry of the Coldwater Lobster Association.
Meanwhile, d'Entremont says he would like Ottawa to form a panel, including First Nations and commercial fishermen to resolve the issue.