Fisheries officials execute bold daylight raids

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Monday, September 25, 2000

BURNT CHURCH, N.B. - Federal fisheries officials performed two lightning raids to seize lobster traps Monday, prompting Mi'kmaq warriors to give chase on the water.

Boats from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) raced across Miramichi Bay at high speed in broad daylight. Most of the DFO's raids have taken place overnight or before dawn.

Members of the Mi'kmaq Warrior Society gave chase in their boats, but as soon as they hit the water, the DFO vessels left.


But the 14 DFO boats moved fast enough to pull up 97 traps. Some of the traps were within 100 metres of shore.

DFO boats speed across the water
Seized traps

Meanwhile, more gunshots rang out over Miramichi Bay early Monday morning. Fisheries officers said they heard three shots coming from shore, but that has not been confirmed.

The noise brought the officers' overnight operation to an abrupt end.

Two other shooting incidents in recent days have added to the tensions in Burnt Church.

Monday's raids come after a day of relative calm, when heavy rain and rough seas kept the fisheries officers from pulling up traps.

But federal officers did haul more than 900 lobster traps from Miramichi Bay over the weekend, an operation the Burnt Church band says left fewer than 100 cages in the water.

The DFO estimates more than 500 illegal traps remain in the water.

In Ottawa, Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal happily announced 1,351 traps have been seized.

Burnt Church Chief Wilbur Dedam says once the fisheries officers are finished confiscating the traps, there is a new supply ready to be put out.

The natives are adamant they will fish until their self-declared season ends on Oct. 7.

The natives are asserting their treaty right to fish year-round and with no limitations, based on a Supreme Court ruling last September.

Ottawa says it still has a right to regulate the fishery. And non-native fishermen say there should be one set of rules for all fishermen.