By Michael MacDonald
THE CANADIAN PRESS
HALIFAX- A First Nation in southern Cape Breton is set to become the second Indigenous band in Nova Scotia to launch a self-regulated commercial lobster fishery that will operate outside the regular season.
The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs issued a statement Wednesday saying fishers from the Potlotek First Nation plan to head out on St. Peters Bay on Thursday.
“The Mi’kmaq Nation celebrates the community of Potlotek as they take to the waters for their Netukulimk livelihood fishery and the many communities that will be taking similar steps in the near future,” the assembly said in a statement.
Netukulimk refers to the ability of a community to meet its nutritional and economic needs without jeopardizing the environment.
Potlotek Chief Wilbert Marshall said his First Nation has drafted its own fisheries management plan, which it has submitted to Ottawa.
“Our community-developed plan will provide those in our community . . . with the opportunity to provide a means of support for themselves and their families,” he said in a statement.
Marshall said the harvesters plan to exercise their inherent right to fish for a moderate livelihood, as spelled out in a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision.
“We’re not looking to get rich off of it,” Marshall told CBC last month. “We just want to make a decent living.”
Marshall has said about 10 licensed Indigenous fishers were expected to each use about 70 traps on Thursday.
Most of the non-Indigenous lobster harvesters in the area are represented by the Richmond County Inshore Fishermen’s Association, but no one from that organization was willing to offer comment Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Sipekne’katik First Nation in western Nova Scotia has faced protests from non-Indigenous fishers after the band launched its own self-regulated lobster fishery on Sept 17.
That First Nation has now entered into talks with the Federal Fisheries Department to settle its dispute with non-Indigenous harvesters.
“We had a very positive discussion (and) they recognized this is a nation to nation matter,” Sipekne’katik First Nation Chief Michael Sack said Wednesday in a statement.
“We have agreed to reconvene in the coming weeks after everyone has had an opportunity to review our plan and regulations.”
On Thursday, the province celebrates its annual Treaty Day, which recognizes the signing of peace and friendship treaties between the Mi’kmaq and the Crown in the 1700s.
Those treaties formed the basis of the 1999 Supreme Court ruling.
In that historic decision, the court decided that Donald Marshall Jr. had a treaty right to fish for eels when and where he wanted, without a licence.
The Marshall decision also said the First Nations in Eastern Canada could hunt, fish and gather to earn a “moderate livelihood,” though the court followed up with a clarification two months later, saying the treaty right was subject to federal regulation. That additional ruling is at the crux of the argument being made by some non-Indigenous fishers, who say First Nations must abide by Ottawa’s conservation measures.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 30, 2020