Another N.S. First Nation announces plans to launch self-regulated lobster fishery

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The chief of Membertou First Nation in Cape Breton says the band is preparing to launch its own self-regulated lobster fishery and is also on the hunt to buy more commercial fishing licences.

Chief Terry Paul, who is seeking re-election, made the comments in a video posted on Facebook on Monday night, just a few days before the community heads to the polls for band elections.

A similar lobster fishery launched by Sipekne'katik First Nation last month on Nova Scotia's southwest coast has faced tense and sometimes violent opposition by non-Indigenous commercial fishermen.

Two lobster facilities in the area used by Mi'kmaw fishermen were targeted and vandalized last week. One of the facilities, located in Middle West Pubnico, was destroyed in a Saturday blaze that RCMP have deemed suspicious.

"The actions taking place now on southwest Nova Scotia are appalling and shameful," said Paul.

WATCH | Membertou First Nation chief on inshore, offshore fishery:

Paul, who heads the fisheries portfolio for the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Chiefs, said he is working with the Department and Fisheries and Oceans to end the violence.

Election day in Membertou for the chief and councillors is on Thursday. Paul has been chief since 1984 and is facing off against Edwin LaPorte.

Despite the violence, Paul said Membertou will proceed with planning its own self-regulated lobster fishery, although he did not offer a timeline.

"We are currently in the process of working on a moderate livelihood management plan. This will include input from you, our community members. Soon, we will be fishing for our own livelihood on our own terms," he said.

The Mi'kmaw right to fish for a moderate livelihood was affirmed by a 1999 Supreme Court ruling.

Sipekne'katik Chief Mike Sack has noted the band's fishery in southwest Nova Scotia is small compared to the commercial fishery in the area.

Commercial fishermen have argued that operating the fishery outside the federally mandated commercial season will have a negative impact on lobster conservation.

Potlotek First Nation in Cape Breton has also started its own self-regulated fishery and hasn't encountered any outcry from commercial fishermen on the island.

Taryn Grant/CBC
Taryn Grant/CBC

Membertou is also looking to increase the number of commercial fishing licences it holds. Paul didn't say how many licences the First Nation currently has.

"Each season with the inshore commercial fishery, we do our best to acquire new licences as they become available. Our fleets are strong, and our fishers are proud," he said. "Our commercial fishery earns several million dollars annually, which is reinvested back into our community."

Paul even asked members of the community to make the band aware of any new licences that come up for sale: "We are still very committed to our inshore fishery."

Last month, Membertou also struck a $25 million deal with Clearwater Seafoods to buy two of its offshore lobster licences.

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