N.B. native lobster season officially closes

CBC News Online
Saturday, October 07, 2000

BURNT CHURCH, N.B. - The tension over a native-run lobster fishery in New Brunswick eased Saturday, as the Burnt Church band began pulling the last of its lobster traps out of Miramichi Bay.



Last month Mi'kmaq leaders promised the fall season would officially end Oct. 7, and ordered the last of about 250 traps removed from the water by 4 p.m.

But they were quick to point out that the dispute is not over. The federal government and the band are still trying to reach a settlement over fishing rights Ü a process being closely watched by non-native fishermen in the area.

"We're hoping mediation is still ongoing and it's just a matter of seeing what kind of a response we receive from (mediator) Bob Rae and DFO," said Burnt Church leader Lloyd Augustine.

The Department of Oceans and Fisheries (DFO) and the RCMP have charged more than 30 people with various offences. Those cases will work their way through the courts in the next several months.



The DFO says it has seized about 4,200 traps and seven boats.

The fight over fishing rights created a tense, and often confrontational, environment in Burnt Church over the last few months.

Native fishermen argue that treaties give them the right to fish as much, and as often, as they want, based on a Supreme Court ruling last September. But Ottawa maintains it still has the authority to regulate all fishing in Canada on the basis of conservation.

Non-native fishermen, who have threatened to destroy all of the band's lobster traps if the issue isn't resolved, want one set of rules for everyone.