ST. PETER'S, N.S. — A Cape Breton First Nation has successfully negotiated an interim "understanding" with the federal Fisheries Department that will allow it to set a total of 700 lobster traps beginning Saturday.
The arrangement announced Friday means Indigenous fishers from the Potlotek First Nation will be able to conduct a so-called "moderate livelihood" fishery, with the band planning to allow up to 70 traps per boat.
The community cites a 1999 Supreme Court decision as allowing it to fish for a moderate livelihood, though the court later clarified that Ottawa could regulate the treaty right for conservation and other limited purposes.
The band's fishers have said they have struggled this year after Fisheries officers seized their harvest and gear.
However, federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said in a release Friday the band's fishing will be allowed during the existing season in harvesting districts off the coast of Cape Breton and in Bras d'Or Lake, and they will be permitted to sell their catch.
She also said that overall, the Indigenous harvest will not add to the total number of traps in the lobster fishing areas in question, known as 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31a.
Potlotek Chief Wilbert Marshall said in a news release Friday the arrangement is for this season only and "more discussion will need to be had on future seasons and fisheries."
He also said that in the band's view the initial allocation of 700 traps isn't considered sufficient.
“We didn’t sign any agreements – I told my community members that we wouldn’t. Through talks, we were able to come to an understanding with (the Fisheries Department),” the chief said.
“We know that this is an interim measure, but it is a good first step," he added.
Jordan also referred to the understanding as an initial step, saying it demonstrates Ottawa's willingness to listen to the band's needs while maintaining a sustainable fishery.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 4, 2021.
The Canadian Press