Indigenous fishermen head from the harbour in Saulnierville, N.S. on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. A First Nation in Nova Scotia that was struggling to sell its lobster harvest amid tensions over its self-regulated fishery says it has managed to find a buyer for a portion of its catch. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Andrew Vaughan

Another First Nation in Nova Scotia plans to start a self-regulated lobster fishery

Another First Nation in Nova Scotia plans to start a self-regulated lobster fishery

HALIFAX — Another First Nation is starting a self-regulated fishery in Nova Scotia even though it suffered backlash from the decision of the Sipekne’katik First Nation to harvest lobster outside the federally regulated fishing season.

Chief Carol Dee Potter of the Bear River First Nation issued a statement Monday saying no one consulted her band before Sipekne’katik members launched an out-of-season fishery Sept. 17, prompting a series of violent protests and vandalism by non-Indigenous agitators.

“Over the last few weeks, our fishers have been forced out of this area due to the ongoing dispute,” Potter said. “It is hard to see how any way forward can be developed … when so many are intent on escalating the situation on St. Marys Bay.”

The chief of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, Mike Sack, said he was glad to hear Bear River was organizing its own self-regulated fishery on the same bay.

But Potter said Sack’s band has caused collateral damage in the past month.

She said her band had worked tirelessly to repair relationships with non-Indigenous communities after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1999 that Indigenous groups in the Maritimes and Quebec have a protected treaty right to fish, hunt and gather — without a licence — to earn a moderate livelihood.

That court decision sparked violent clashes in 1999 and 2000 after some Indigenous bands started asserting their rights in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

“All that work over the past decades is quickly being eroded by others who will soon leave this area, leaving us to pick up the pieces,” Potter said.

Potter said her community is closer to St. Marys Bay than any other First Nation in southwestern Nova Scotia. The Sipekne’katik band is based inland, north of Halifax, about 250 kilometres east of the bay.

Two First Nations in Cape Breton — Potlotek and Eskasoni — started their own self-regulated moderate livelihood fishery in St. Peters Bay on Oct. 1.

Like most other Mi’kmaq First Nations, Bear River has its own communal commercial lobster fishery, and it regularly takes part in a food, social and ceremonial fishery, which is not a commercial enterprise. Both fisheries were set up with Ottawa’s help after the landmark 1999 court ruling.

Chief Potter is calling for discussions about the moderate livelihood fisheries with the federal government, neighbouring Mi’kmaq communities and with non-Indigenous fishers.

“We are very concerned that we are not part of any discussions that involve the health and sustainability of resources in our own backyard,” the chief said. “Bear River First Nations’ obligations of stewardship are obligations we owe to the Creator. This has always been the Mi’kmaq way.”

Some non-Indigenous commercial fishers have argued the Supreme Court ruling was followed up by a clarification that said federal officials can regulate Indigenous fisheries to conserve stocks, so long as Ottawa can justify its actions.

Meanwhile, the Sipekne’katik First Nation announced Tuesday it had found a buyer for a portion of its catch, despite Sack’s earlier assertions that local buyers and suppliers were refusing to deal with the band because of the ongoing controversy.

Sack says the 6,300 kilograms of lobster caught by the band’s communal commercial fishing fleet in the Bay of Fundy is probably worth $150,000. He said the new buyer, whom he declined to name, won’t be purchasing lobster harvested from St. Marys Bay by the band’s moderate livelihood fishery.

In the five weeks since that fishery was launched, two lobster pounds handling Sipekne’katik lobster have been targeted by vandals, with one damaged and the other destroyed by fire.

Last Wednesday, the band obtained a court injunction prohibiting anyone from threatening or harassing band members involved in the fishery or people doing business with them.

Also last week, a potential buyer for Sipekne’katik’s lobster came forward and then withdrew, saying his company was concerned it could not distinguish between the lobster caught under federal fisheries licences or the lobster caught in the moderate livelihood fishery.

The provincial government regulates the sale of lobster by granting licences to approved lobster buyers. Sack said the band is looking for an exemption for the moderate livelihood fishery, but he said the province hasn’t responded.

Premier Stephen McNeil has said the province is awaiting the completion of nation-to-nation negotiations between Ottawa and the band to define moderate livelihood fisheries.

Sack also said the band is grateful for offers from businesses and citizens to purchase its lobster.

“Restaurant owners, chefs, seafood brokers and Canadians far and wide have approached us with sincere and creative proposals,” he said in a statement. “That has meant so much to my community. This is the Canada we know.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2020.

Michael Tutton and Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott and his sister Melodie pose for a photo at the Mirror restaurant. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Alberta Health Services delivers ‘closure order’ to Mirror restaurant

Alberta Health Services says it has delivered a closure order to a… Continue reading

Flags bearers hold the Canadian flag high during the Flags of Remembrance ceremony in Sylvan Lake in this October file photo. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
New project to pay tribute to Canadians killed in Afghanistan

Flags of Remembrance scheduled for Sept. 11

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta… Continue reading

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to defend the country and continue its missions overseas amid concerns potential adversaries could try to take advantage of the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian special forces supported major Iraqi military assault on ISIL last month

OTTAWA — Some Canadian soldiers supported a major military offensive last month… Continue reading

A woman pays her repects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The joint public inquiry in response to the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced a mandate that includes a probe of the RCMP response as well as the role of gender-based violence in the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Creating permanent memorial to Nova Scotia mass shooting victims a delicate task

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — Creating a memorial for those killed in Nova Scotia’s… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who… Continue reading

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, second from left, celebrates his goal with teammates, from left to right, Matthew Tkachuk, Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, of Sweden, during second period NHL hockey action against the Edmonton Oilers, in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Jacob Markstrom earns shutout as Flames blank Oilers 5-0 in Battle of Alberta

CALGARY — It took Sean Monahan breaking out of his goal-scoring slump… Continue reading

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia's opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan's government, but they say Monday's throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province's economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s opposition parties acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented… Continue reading

A grizzly bear walks on a treadmill as Dr. Charles Robbins, right, offers treats as rewards at Washington State University's Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center in this undated handout photo. Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails like those commonly used by people, which can affect land management practices in wild areas, says an expert who has written a paper on their travel patterns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Anthony Carnahan *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Grizzly bears prefer walking on gentle slopes at a leisurely pace like humans: study

VANCOUVER — Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails… Continue reading

FILE - In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. Moderna said Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, its COVID-19 shot provides strong protection against the coronavirus that's surging in the U.S. and around the world. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
The COVID-19 wasteland: searching for clues to the pandemic in the sewers

OTTAWA — When Ottawa Public Health officials are trying to decide whether… Continue reading

Most Read