Fishers hope for lobsters not trouble

The London Free Press
Sunday, April 30, 2000

BURNT CHURCH, N.B. Fishers in northern New Brunswick say they'll be looking for lobsters, not trouble, when they set their traps today in Miramichi Bay.

The lobster fishery opens in various parts of the Maritimes this morning, but most of the attention will be focused on the Burnt Church area on New Brunswick's northeastern coast.

Native and non-native fishers clashed here last fall after members of the Burnt Church First Nation took advantage of a Supreme Court of Canada decision that said the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet people have a treaty right to earn a moderate living from fishing.

The Burnt Church reserve has turned down a deal from Ottawa for an interim fisheries agreement that would impose federal regulations in return for financial and training incentives.

Chief Wilbur Dedam and council members said yesterday Ottawa's offer of a few more commercial licences for the reserve of 1,300 was not enough.

"It's an insult," said Dedam, himself a fisher.

Vernon Mitchell, a member of the band council, said people are wary of cutting deals with Ottawa.

"They're scared the treaty rights would be signed away and they don't like the fact that Ottawa is trying to put dollar amounts on our rights," Mitchell said.

Despite the lack of an agreement, there's a feeling in Burnt Church the season will go well and there won't be any confrontations.

The federal Fisheries Department has given the reserve a communal licence and expects that should cover the fairly limited activities of the reserve.