Mi’kmaw treaty lobster fishery launches, fisheries officers seize lobster and gear 

Fisheries officers seized crates of lobster at Saulnierville wharf, harvested by Sipekne’katik First Nation fishermen.

A few days earlier, Mi’kmaw fishermen dropped their lobster traps in St. Mary’s Bay under the band’s own lobster management plan.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) confirmed to APTN News officers seized 82 crates containing approximately 6,000 lobster.

Robert Sack of Sipekne’katik First Nation says his gear was also seized – but he will keep fishing,

“Go set another 100 and I’ll sink them all,” said Sack.

A day before the treaty fishery launched, James Nevin, of Sipekene’kaitk was in Digby provincial court, defending his treaty rights to harvest lobster to earn a moderate livelihood.

He was charged in 2018 for unauthorized fishing, fishing without authorized tags, and possessing lobster.

Nevin said the court is a waste of time.

“It’s our treaty right to fish, we’re the only reserve that hasn’t signed any type of agreement for like what DFO and DFO is trying to pressure us to sign some type of agreement so they can regulate us,” said Nevin.

Sipekne’kaitk fishermen are harvesting lobster to earn a moderate livelihood.

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Mi’kmaw Fishing Rights 

Under the Peace and Friendship treaties, Mi’kmaw can hunt, gather, and fish to earn a moderate livelihood. The treaty was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, known as the Marshall Decision.

Sipekne’katik treaty fishery management plan is not recognized by DFO.

“It sucks really, it’s a shame that we have to do this, like I said they are trying to back us into a corner for like the past 30 years right because we are like the only reserve that hasn’t signed,” said Nevin.

Sipekne’katik fisheries department authorized 50 tags per boat to harvest lobster until the commercial fishery season starts, till about mid-November.

“DFO has a critical role to play in managing the shared resource and fishing must occur during the established seasons and with a DFO-authorized licence,” said Victoria Weizmann from DFO in an email to APTN News. “And any unauthorized fishing activity may be subject to enforcement action.”

Sack, who said he fishes to support his family, added that treaty rights are not government-regulated.

“They just want us to follow their paper and their paper only, what they say goes and we are letting them know that this is a treaty right for every band member,” said Sack.

A treaty right supported by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination acknowledged the systemic racism and recommendations by the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, said in a letter to Canada,

“The rights-based fisheries that were affirmed in the Marshall Decision, affecting Mi’kmaw communities and other First Nations, have yet to be implemented by the government of Canada and the lack of implementation has led to rising tensions and violence,” said the U.N.

Sack said he hopes the support of the United Nations will help Canada recognize Mi’kmaw treaty rights, for future generations.

“If we stop fighting our kids aren’t going to have any kind of future, we’re just going to be I don’t know, I don’t know what they want us to do, go back to the reserve and just stay there, I don’t know what they expect us to do but we’re here and we’re fighting and we’re not going to stop,” said Sack.

Nevin’s court case will continue in November.

Editor’s Note: The original story misspelled James Nevin’s name. We apologize for the error. 

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