DFO admits to ‘tensions’ during lobster season

The seizure of lobster traps and the participation of First Nations in the lobster fishery have led to “tensions,” according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

While news of an interim deal and the return of traps should help, Noel d’Entremont, Acting Director of Conservation and Protection (C&P) for the Maritime Region, said there are problems.

“I would say there’s tensions,” he told The Reporter. “We will continue to have a presence in the St. Peter’s Bay area to monitor all fisheries taking place.”

In addition to conducting their own surveillance on the water, d’Entremont said they have also been working with the RCMP which has provided a noticeable presence at wharves around the region.

“We’re working in collaboration with the RCMP,” he noted. “The joint response is a Government of Canada response to everything.”

Just recently, 196 traps that were seized last fall from Mi’kmaw livelihood harvesters authorized under Community Netukulimk Livelihood Fishery Plans from both Potlotek and Eskasoni First Nations, were returned by the DFO.

The traps in St. Peter’s Bay contravened the Fisheries Act and were returned with a written warning to both Potlotek and Eskasoni First Nations, d’Entremont explained.

“There was no authorization to allow those traps to be fished at that time. We did an investigation. C&P has numerous methods to deal with non-compliant activity in the Fisheries Act. Our review determined the most appropriate enforcement response to that situation was to issue a written warning to the owners of the traps,” he recalled. “To fish lobsters in those (Lobster Fishing Areas), you have to have an authorization issued by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and there was no authorization for those traps to be fished in the water.”

While the Netukulimk Livelihood Fishery is managed by Mi’kmaw communities, all fishing gear, equipment and supplies are purchased and owned by individual harvesters.

Recently, it was also confirmed that those fishing under the Netukulimk Livelihood Fisheries Plan from Potlotek First Nation returned to the water after reaching an interim understanding with the DFO.

Under the agreement, Potlotek’s authorized harvesters are now able to sell their catches and set up to 700 traps, with the cooperation of the DFO.

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan said this cooperative path forward speaks to the moderate livelihood fishing aspirations of the community. In acknowledging that this is an interim measure, Jordan said the department is committed to continuing consultations with the community, including community concerns about access.