Natives must limit fishery to save stocks
Fishermen are universally unhappy with DFOs failure to control native fishery 

CHARLES PERRY
Moncton Times and Transcript
Friday,April 6, 2001

A Maritime Fishermen’s Union spokesman took great pains yesterday to emphasize the group’s support for the rights of native peoples to a food fishery. 

As well, the union representing the inshore fishermen, pledged to do whatever it can to help native fisherman to share in the commercial fishery and have met with native fishermen over the winter months to help smooth the way, its executive secretary Michael Belliveau of Shediac told a news conference in Moncton. 

But in the meantime, something has to be done to better define the food fishery, especially when it comes to lobsters, or the lucrative lobster fishery in the Northumberland Strait will eventually be destroyed for both the natives and non-natives, he warned. 

In Region 25, running from Cape Tormentine to Baie-Ste-Anne, the lobster season starts on Aug. 9 and continues into the fall. However, the native fishermen from Big Cove, who share in the commercial fishery in the fall, also have their traps out in June and July, said Belliveau. 

Further north in Region 23, he said the lobster season begins in May and runs through the spring. But the fishermen at the Burnt Church reserve continue to put out their traps during the late summer and into the fall. 

He said they are allowed to do this because of their right to a food fishery. They were authorized to have 2,100 traps in July and “officially” landed as much as 5,000 to 6,000 pounds (2,250 to 2,700 kilograms) of lobsters on some days, he added.

“When you see fishermen, who have fished for more than 30 years, coming into the wharf with half the catch of the native fishermen, something has happened,” said Belliveau. “You can see how some people can interpret the food fishery as a thinly-veiled attempt at an off-season fishery,” he said. 

Belliveau said the MFU has no problem with the Marshall decision regarding the right of native people to a food fishery, but the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ interpretation of what that constitutes is a difficult pill for the non-native fishermen to swallow.

“Their text got so bizarre at one point that the DFO were allowing 750 lbs. (337.5 kg) of lobster per every man, woman and child in the Burnt Church reserve,” he said. 

“Considering Canadians consume an average of five to 10 pounds (two to 4.5 kg) of lobsters per year, is it credible to call this a food fishery,” asked the MFU executive secretary. 

He said this is going to seriously threaten lobster stocks not too far down the road to the detriment of both the native and non-native fishermen. He explained that in effect, the natives’ food fishery is creating two lobster seasons.