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Fishing boats at Saulnierville Wharf in August, 2021 (Acadia News photo)

DFO calls for calm in St. Mary’s Bay as enforcement continues

By Kevin Northup Sep 5, 2023 | 6:11 AM

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans calling for safety and patience in St. Mary’s Bay.

Tensions have been rising once again due to out of season lobster fishing taking place.

In a statement, DFO says they’re committed to a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples, so they can exercise their Treaty rights to fish.

They say many are exercising that right through the Food, Social and Ceremonial fishery, authorized by DFO.

But they say it has to comply with the Fisheries Act, and they are seizing gear and laying charges for those who don’t follow the rules.

DFO has been getting flack from local commercial fishers and opposition leaders, demanding that they do more to enforce the rules.

Full statement from DFO:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is committed to a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples based on recognizing rights, respect, collaboration, and partnership. As part of that commitment, we are working with First Nations harvesters so that they can exercise their Supreme Court-affirmed Treaty right to fish through various DFO-authorized fisheries. These fisheries include food, social and ceremonial (FSC), and communal commercial fisheries, including interim understandings reached to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.

Many First Nations harvesters are exercising their right to fish FSC lobster in St. Mary’s Bay in southwestern Nova Scotia and our fishery officers are working  with those communities to protect the rights of  First Nations harvesters engaged in this fishery. Part of that protection is ensuring that the fishing complies with the Fisheries Act, and other associated regulations. As we do in all fisheries, our fishery officers are verifying gear for compliance, monitoring activities on and off the water and, where warranted, seizing gear and catch, and laying charges for violations under the Fisheries Act. Fishing activity occurring without a required licence or not in compliance with the conditions of the licence is subject to enforcement action.

We have allocated significant enforcement resources in St. Marys Bay. Since July 17, fishery officers have so far seized 464 traps in LFAs 33 and 34 for non-compliance with the Fisheries Act and associated regulations. On August 30th fishery officers arrested two individuals in Moncton, New Brunswick and seized over 8,000 lobsters that came from southwest Nova Scotia, which were then released back into the ocean. 

Ensuring a safe and orderly lobster fishery has to be a primary focus, and that is why DFO will continue working with all of our partners to that effect. We will continue to take action whenever unauthorized harvesting and other violations under the Fisheries Act are observed, while supporting the exercise of fishing rights.

Established seasons support this shared goal. Seasons help make sure predictability for all those participating in the fishery, as well as for other fleets and industries, and reduces gear conflict among fisheries operating in the same geographic area. The timing of season openings also help ensure that the benefits of the inshore lobster fishery are distributed broadly to Indigenous and coastal communities across Atlantic Canada. 

We urge all parties to emphasize the importance of safety and patience during this tense period. We will continue to work with all those involved in lobster fisheries, – non-Indigenous and Indigenous —   to responsibly manage this socially, historically and economically important species.


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