Weather forces break in fishing protest

Valerie Lawton
The Toronto Star
Sunday, October 10, 1999

BURNT CHURCH, N.B. - A lone native boat braved driving rain and
rough waters off this northern New Brunswick community yesterday
on what was supposed to be the first day of a voluntary
moratorium on lobster fishing.

But the aboriginal fishermen who oppose the shutdown said it was only the foul weather that kept them on shore.

''We were definitely going to go out there in full force. It's just the weather didn't co-operate with us,'' said Brian Bartibogue, a young fisherman.

''Tomorrow's another day,'' he said. ''It'll calm down, we'll be out there again.''

Federal Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal is expcted to announce today he will not shut down the East Coast lobster fishery to both natives and non-natives - something Atlantic aboriginal chiefs asked him to do while new conservation rules are negotiated.

'Dhaliwal is keeping his options open' ''Dhaliwal is keeping his options open, but given the peace,
given the co-operation, given the dialogue, I don't think that's
necessary,'' a senior Fisheries official told The Star.

Department officials have been talking to native leaders in Burnt Church, trying to come up with regulations that the community will find fair.

Atlantic native leaders asked their band members to stop catching lobster, hoping the gesture would put an end to a string of violent confrontations with non-native fishermen.

But some fishermen, including Bartibogue, have refused, even though they concede it's becoming an increasingly bad time of year to be on the water.

They don't want to bow down after non-natives destroyed hundreds of their lobster traps last weekend.

''If they didn't do what they did, I think the fishery would be winding down now because the lobster are moving further out and it's getting colder,'' said Bartibogue, also a band councillor. ''Since what went on we have a point to make.''

The fisheries crisis began after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a 1760 treaty gives Atlantic Micmac and Maliseet the right to fish enough to provide themselves with enough income for a moderate living.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, natives have decided to delay unlicensed commercial fishing of protected salmon stocks that they say is okay in light of the Supreme Court decision on the Micmac, The Star's Daniel Girard reports.