ST. PETER’S: The conservation and protection branch of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans dumped hundreds of illegal lobsters last week.
The DFO confirmed to The Reporter that over 400 undersized lobsters were taken from a fishing vessel and released at the St. Peter’s Canal on June 22. The DFO noted that “some egg-bearing female lobsters were also released.”
“This was discovered during a routine dockside inspection conducted by fishery officers,” the DFO said.
The DFO noted that the vessel involved was participating in the authorized Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) Fishery and the First Nation community that the vessel belongs to has been notified.
Although no charges were laid, the DFO said it continues to investigate.
On the opening day of the season in Lobster Fishing Area 29, a Potlotek Netukulimk Fishery Harvester had 37 lobster traps seized by conservation and protection officers in St. Peter’s Bay.
The Nova Scotia Assembly of First Nations Chiefs said the Potlotek fisher was not only following the community Netukulimk Livelihood Plan, but also limitations put in place by DFO. According to the chiefs, “minor changes” were made to the Potlotek Plan fished last fall, and Potlotek First Nation has been “fully transparent” with DFO in the development of their plan.
In response, the DFO confirmed fishery officers have been “engaged in operations” in St. Peter’s Bay and will continue to “actively monitor” fishing activity.
Earlier this month, 196 traps that were seized from Mi’kmaw livelihood harvesters last year were returned by the DFO. The traps were seized by during the fall fishery and belonged to Mi’kmaw harvesters from both Potlotek and Eskasoni First Nations.
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, the DFO noted.
Around that same time, 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 set approximately 700 traps and sell their catches, with the cooperation of the DFO.
On May 10, Potlotek First Nation filed papers with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia challenging the limitations imposed on their harvesting activities by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
In a press release, the assembly agreed that the Fisheries Act infringes on the treaty right affirmed in the Marshall decision. According to the chiefs, Potlotek is also asserting that the DFO’s Conservation and Protection (C&P) Branch has no jurisdiction over approved community livelihood harvesters.
On June 17, the Unified Fisheries Conservation Alliance, an organization of commercial fishery stakeholders, including the Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen’s Association and the Richmond County Inshore Fishermen’s Association, said it intends to seek intervener status in the case.