Peaceful opening to lobster season pleases Fisheries officials

Canadian Press
Saturday, April 29, 2000

BURNT CHURCH, N.B. Federal Fisheries officials are pleased with the peaceful opening this morning of the potentially turbulent lobster season in the Maritimes.

Although angry fishermen in Prince Edward Island called for the resignation of federal Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal, there was no violence as native and non-native fishermen headed out on calm, ocean waters to set their lobster traps.

''It's a very orderly beginning to the fishery,'' said Andre Marc Lanteigne, a spokesman for the federal Fisheries Department.

''It's not totally unexpected. It's a very busy day and everyone is competing for the best spots to put their traps down.''

This season is considered a test of how commercial and aboriginal fishermen can work together now that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled natives have a treaty right to earn a moderate living from fishing.

The most watched troublespots are at Burnt Church in northern New Brunswick, where there was violence last fall between native and non-native fishermen, and the Malpeque Bay area of northern Prince Edward Island, where there is anger about the way Ottawa is trying to re-order the fishery.

P.E.I. fishermen issued a news release today demanding Dhaliwal's removal and asking for a public inquiry into the way the Fisheries Department has responded to the Supreme Court ruling in the case of native fisherman Donald Marshall Jr.

But Lanteigne said the situation at Malpeque Bay is changing quickly, and it appears the native fishermen can be accommodated through licence buy-backs, leasing arrangements and changes to the aboriginal food fishery.

''We now have the equivalent of 13 licences available in Malpeque Bay, so the situation is pretty much fixed,'' he said.

''We are going to attempt to keep fishing patterns as they were before. It's very quiet there this morning.''

Lanteigne said calls for the minister's resignation are hardly new.
Dhaliwal has been trying to hammer out agreements with the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet people ever since the high court's ruling last fall which said natives have a right to earn a moderate living from hunting, fishing and gathering under 18th-centurty treaties.

A subsequent clarification by the court said that right is subject to federal regulation.