Non-Indigenous fishers hit the waters for the start of the commercial lobster season in Cape Breton at the same time as Mi’kmaw harvesters dropped traps for their moderate livelihood fishery this week.
But hours after the Mi’kmaw traps went in the water, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans seized them.
Evan Johnson, from Potlotek First Nation, had 37 traps taken.
“I said our plan that we adopted, and everything was signed off on, and I would not have been issued my tags if it wasn’t okay for us to go and they said according to what we were told, that these aren’t valid,” he said.
According to the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs, the harvesters were in full accordance with the community’s regulations.
Last fall Potlotek was one of the MI’kmaq communities to launch their treaty fishery.
Community member Craig Doucette took part in the launch – but his traps were also seized.
“It’s just so belittling,” he said. “Classic bully the government’s coming after us little guys and what can we do.”
Doucette is facing charges back to 2019.
Johnson vows to keep dropping traps.
“First person to put our traps in, first person to lose our traps, so, I hope it doesn’t keep up like this, the more they take, the more I’m going to set,” he said.
DFO said any harvester without the proper tags is subject to “enforcement action,” despite the treaty fishery.