Protesters demand DFO return traps they say were improperly seized in Cape Breton
ST. PETER'S, N.S. -- Angry, but peaceful, protesters set up shop in front of Department of Fisheries and Oceans offices in Cape Breton's Richmond County Wednesday, demanding that their lobster traps be returned -- although it appeared the building was closed and nobody was inside.
"Nobody wants a conflict," said organizer Bernadette Marshall outside the office in Louisdale, N.S. "That's one thing I can say for Potlotek. We don't want a conflict, but if it has to be, it has to be."
A video, taken by a Potlotek First Nation fisherman over the weekend, appears to show DFO officers in a confrontation with Mi’kmaw fishers.
"I lost my cool with DFO yesterday, but who wouldn't?" said Potlotek First Nation Chief Wilbert Marshall. "We keep telling them to stop harassing our guys. Do they want a war here?"
A spokesperson for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans says the minister has been in contact with First Nations fishers, but couldn't comment on why or whether traps were seized.
Chief Marshall says the relationship between Potlotek First Nation and the RCMP has been positive, but he says they need more support as tensions grow.
"We're probably going to need more presence here pretty soon, if tensions keep rising," Chief Marshall said. "It's too bad. We just want to fish and be left alone."
At the canal in St. Peters, N.S., support is pouring in for Potlotek fishers, both on the ground and by sea. There are boats from Eskasoni and Prince Edward Island.
"But we're hearing threats from the outside," Chief Marshall said. "They say, 'If you guys come near here, we're going to burn your boats, we're going to cut your traps, we're going to go after you guys.' This is what our guys are hearing."
At the protest, people held signs, waved flags, and demanded that DFO leave their fishers alone.
"We want DFO to know what they did was wrong and we're going to continue to fish here," said Bernadette Marshall. "And it would be a kind gesture on the government's part to return all our traps."
Chief Marshall says he is hoping to meet with the fisheries minister and other officials to try to bridge any miscommunication.