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A DFO enforcement officer in Yarmouth, NS. Photo Y95 Archive Photo.

DFO responds to industry concerns on moderate livelihood understanding

By News Dec 1, 2023 | 4:31 PM

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans say they don’t support the fishing of moderate livelihood and commercial lobster traps from the same vessel.

A number of inshore fishing associations in Southwest Nova Scotia withdrew support for DFO’s moderate livelihood understanding with local First Nations.

The associations said DFO breached their faith and deceived them by allowing the stacking of moderate livelihood and communal commercial licences.

The department says they made it clear to the associations that they don’t support this, as fishery officers work to make sure any fishing taking place is authorized by DFO.

They say anyone not in compliance is subject to enforcement.

Full response from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for managing Canada’s fisheries and oceans resources, and safeguarding its waters. DFO also has a key role in upholding Indigenous rights and supporting Indigenous communities’ participation in fisheries.

In relation to the treaty right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood, we work with indigenous communities to provide access for members who choose to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood.

On October 12, DFO provided an interim authorization to Annapolis Valley, Bear River, Glooscap and Wasoqopa’q (Acadia) First Nations totaling 5,250 traps for LFAs 33, 34 and 35 (with a limit of 1,000 traps to be used in LFA 35 which opened October 12). This total allocation is subject to change, and the Department continues to work with the Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office on the 2023-24 fishing plan that is enabled through this interim authorization.

Consistent with previous DFO-issued moderate livelihood fishing authorizations, both the Minister and the Department remain committed to no new fishing effort. In these LFAs, access is being offset by existing banked licences and traps in these areas that are unfished.

Representatives from the inshore lobster industry are not informed of the specifics of ongoing negotiations, but through regular meetings they are informed of relevant understandings with First Nations that see further Indigenous participation in the commercial fishery through the continued implementation of their right to pursue a moderate livelihood.

Through the interim authorization issued by DFO to Annapolis Valley, Bear River, Glooscap and Wasoqopa’q (Acadia) First Nations, the communities designate Indigenous harvesters from among their members to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood during the commercial season. As managed by the First Nations, this fishing takes place from vessels operated by these designated harvesters fishing their individually-allocated moderate livelihood traps. This approach supports both the implementation of rights, and the shared goal of increasing Indigenous participation in commercial fisheries.

Designated harvesters are expected to abide by conservation measures consistent with or exceeding those in the commercial lobster fishery.

Fishing both DFO-authorized moderate livelihood traps and communal commercial traps from the same vessel is in no way supported as part of the moderate livelihood understanding formed by the community-developed moderate livelihood fishing plans and a DFO-issued authorization. This was clearly communicated to members of the commercial inshore lobster industry, including during a meeting with DFO on Wednesday.

Our fishery officers are in the field each day, working with Indigenous communities to ensure that any fishing activity taking place is authorized by DFO and that harvesters are able to carry on with their activities without interference from others. Fishing activity occurring without a required licence issued by DFO or not in compliance with conditions of licence is subject to enforcement action. Fishery officers take a variety of enforcement approaches, which includes education, issuing warnings and/or laying charges, depending on their assessment of the situational factors.

DFO is committed to working on a collaborative path forward with all parties to ensure a safe, orderly, and sustainable fishery for the benefit of all. This will continue to be guided by three key principles: the conservation and sustainability of fish stocks, further implementation of Indigenous fishing rights, and transparent and stable management of the fishery.