Hundreds of Mi’kmaq lobster traps seized as moderate livelihood fishery continues

Two-hundred and fifty – that’s how many lobster traps Sherman Cremo of Eskason First Nation has lost since he started his moderate livelihood fishery.

Cremo was issued 90 tags last October from his band last October.

The tags are not regulated by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, known as DFO.

Like others, he remains determined.

“We have to fight for our rights,” he told APTN News. “Everyone is losing traps, everyone’s losing gear, it’s just not right.”

Ashton Bernard said he’s not going to be frightened away either.

Bernard, who is also from Eskasoni, is harvesting lobster with food, social and ceremonial tags.

He’s missing six traps but can’t say who is responsible.

“It’s either commercial guys or DFO or our own people so you just got to tough it out and keep going,” he said.

Mi’kmaq lobster traps
Lobster tags issued by Eskasoni First Nation. Photo: Angel Moore

It’s not hard to find a Mi’kmaq harvester who has lost gear.

Craig Doucette from Potlotek First Nation is harvesting lobster with the 90 tags to earn what is called a “moderate livelihood.”

He’s lost more than 150 traps and bait.

“I try to have a positive attitude about everything,” he said. “It’s like I haul a trap up, it’s empty, I don’t know, I don’t want to think negative, I don’t want to think another fisherman sabotaged me or whatever, I think ‘okay you can’t catch them all you know bait it put it back, tomorrow will be a new day.’”

Doucette has been charged before for violating the fisheries act.

But he said he’ll keep fishing.

“I really believe it’s just harassment from the corporate bullies of the Canadian government they have the funds, they have the resources to you know pick on the little guys this isn’t funded by anybody else but myself,” he said.

The Mi’kmaw fishers from Cape Breton, Unama’ki in Mi’kmaw, dock their boats on the St. Peter’s Canal 300 km northeast of Halifax.

Mi’kmaq lobster traps

Watching, on the other side fo the canal, non-Indigenous people sit in their vehicles.

The commercial fishers are against Mi’kmaw right to harvest lobster despite a treaty that spells it out.

They believe the lobster stocks will be depleted if it continues despite scientists assurance that the stock is strong.

Mike Sutherland is one of the people who are against the Mi’kmaw fishery.

“Eventually we’re going to have nothing here,” he said. “These boats aren’t even from here, they are from down the lake so they’re taking the food from the other people and making a living at it here governments got to get off their arse and start doing something.”

Cremo said most people are supportive.

“Some won’t like us but the other people support us in every possible way, they are nice people here,” he said.

Four First Nations in southwestern Nova Scotia have an interim understanding with DFO to harvest lobster to earn a moderate livelihood.

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