N.B. Indians end fishery

The Gazette (Montreal)
November 1, 1999

BURNT CHURCH, N.B. Fishermen from two East Coast Indian bands spent the weekend removing lobster traps from Maritime waters as they closed their first commercial fishery.

''They've been going out all weekend,'' Alex Dedam, spokesman for the Burnt Church Reserve, said of his band's lobstermen. ''(The chief) was advising pretty much everybody to pull out their traps as of (yesterday).''

About 10 Burnt Church fishermen had just under 200 traps in the water on Friday, Dedam said. Between 25 and 50 were removed Saturday, but rough weather made it difficult to collect the rest yesterday. Dedam said some simply chose to abandon the traps.

''There was no indication that anybody intends to keep fishing.''

Meanwhile, fishermen at Nova Scotia's Indian Brook Reserve also collected their traps. ''That's it until next year,'' said Paul Julian, who works at the band office.

Band Chief Reg Maloney noted that the federal government's Oct. 31 deadline to remove traps coincided with a season limit imposed by the band.

Weeks of tension erupted between Indians and non-Indians after Sept. 17, when the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a 1760 treaty allowing aboriginals to fish year-round and without licenses.

Most Indian bands declared a fishing moratorium, but two held out.

The federal government then limited Burnt Church fishermen to 600 traps, while those from Indian Brook were limited to 800. The guidelines also limited catch sizes and the type of gear.

Dedam said falling temperatures are another reason to stop fishing. ''It's too cold and they have to go too far out and the little dories they use just won't take them there,'' he said, noting that fishermen have been venturing about 16 kilometres offshore.