Natives respect end of lobster season to lobster season

The Canadian Press
Monday, November 1, 1999

BURNT CHURCH, N.B. Fishermen from two East Coast aboriginal bands spent the weekend removing lobster traps from Maritime waters as their first commercial fishery prepared to close today.

''They've been going out all weekend,'' Alex Dedam, spokesman for New Brunswick's Burnt Churchreserve, said of his band's lobstermen.

About 10 Burnt Church fishermen had just under 200 traps in the water on Friday, Dedam said.

Between 25 and 50 traps were removed Saturday, but Dedam said rough weather made it difficult for people to collect the rest Sunday. He said some chose to abandon the traps.

''They were saying their traps were too old, there was no point in going out and getting them,'' said Dedam, adding he didn't know of anyone who has decided to defy the ban.

Meanwhile, fishermen in Nova Scotia's Indian Brook reserve also collected their traps.

''They've been taking them out all weekend,'' said Paul Julian, who works at the band office. Band Chief Reg Maloney has said band members will likely have little trouble complying with the government's Oct. 31 deadline to remove traps because it coincides with a season limit already imposed by the band.

Federal Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal said this month that a limited lobster fishery would be allowed for the Indian Brook and Burnt Church reserves until the end of October.

Dhaliwal's spokeswoman Heather Bala said department officials were assured by the two reserves that the season would be respected.

''We are confident that there will be co- operation after Monday,'' said Bala.

Bala said illegal pots would be removed, but would not say whether their owners would face charges under the Fisheries Act.

She couldn't say how many native traps were in the water over the weekend, but said they were below the limits set by government.

The restrictions followed weeks of tension between native and non-native lobster fishermen after the Supreme Court of Canada upheld on Sept. 17 a treaty allowing aboriginals to fish year-round and without a licence.

Many non-natives met the court ruling with anger, fearing that wide-open native fishing in the off-season would deplete the resource.