/Sipekne’katik poised to relaunch contentious lobster fishery in June | CBC News

Sipekne’katik poised to relaunch contentious lobster fishery in June | CBC News

The Sipekne’katik First Nation says it will relaunch a self-regulated lobster fishery in southwestern Nova Scotia in June, once again outside the established commercial season in the area.

In a news release Thursday, the band said it will not increase fishing effort in the area because it is returning all nine commercial lobster licences Sipekne’katik holds in Lobster Fishing Area 34 to the federal government.

Sipekne’katik launched the first “moderate livelihood” lobster fishery in Atlantic Canada last September. It triggered widespread — sometimes violent — protests from commercial fishermen angry that it took place when the commercial season was closed.

The band said Thursday it intends to fish approximately 1,500 traps from June to Dec. 15. The season will close from July 15 to Sept. 7 for a conservation study with Dalhousie University’s marine affairs program to monitor impacts and to protect molting lobsters.

The band estimates the fishery will eventually rise to a maximum of 3,600 traps.

Sipekne’katik said it will police the lobster fishery but wants an officer from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans seconded to the effort as the band trains and expands its “guardianship program.”

There will be mandatory record keeping, centralized catch reporting and log books for participants.

The band predicts it’s “treaty fishery” will employ 100 to 120 band members, up from the 20 to 25 currently employed by its commercial-licence fishery.

The band forged ahead with its own plans last year after saying it was tired of waiting for the federal government to implement its treaty right to earn a moderate livelihood from the fishery, which was recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1999 Marshall decisions. The case also confirmed the federal government has the right to manage the fishery.

In March, federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said her department will not license any Indigenous moderate livelihood fishery in Atlantic Canada this year unless it operates within the commercial season.

The position sided with a key demand from the region’s commercial fishing industry, while angering Indigenous leaders.

“Seasons ensure that stocks are harvested sustainably and they are necessary for an orderly, predictable, and well-managed fishery,” Jordan said.

“In effort-based fisheries such as lobster, seasons are part of the overall management structure that conserves the resource, ensures there isn’t overfishing, and distributes economic benefits across Atlantic Canada.”