Fisherman sentenced for 'blatant and overt' interference in Membertou lobster fishery

According to the agreed statement of facts, fishery officers saw five lobster traps being hauled onboard MacIntryre's boat before being cut and dropped back into the water. (CBC - image credit)
According to the agreed statement of facts, fishery officers saw five lobster traps being hauled onboard MacIntryre's boat before being cut and dropped back into the water. (CBC - image credit)

A Cape Breton fisherman has been fined $6,200 and ordered off the water for six months for cutting lobster traps fished by the Membertou band and obstructing fishery officers.

The sentence was handed down in a Sydney, N.S., courtroom Wednesday after Bernard Douglas MacIntyre pleaded guilty on two charges — two other counts were dropped.

MacIntyre and others on his boat, Kelsey & Mitchell II, were seen cutting traps in Sydney Harbour on the night of Dec. 3, 2020.

The only lawful lobster fishery underway in the area was for food, social and ceremonial licence holders. Members of Membertou First Nation were fishing from the Sydport wharf.

What happened that night

That night, MacIntryre's vessel had set out from the Ballast Grounds Wharf across the harbour in North Sydney, where upwards of 60 people had gathered and between 30 to 40 vehicles were parked.

MacIntyre steamed toward an area where 32 food, social and ceremonial lobster traps had been set earlier in the day by a Membertou fisherman.

According to the agreed statement of facts, fishery officers saw five lobster traps being hauled onboard the Kelsey & Mitchell II, being cut and dropped back into the water. Still shots from video taken at the time clearly shows a telltale magenta-coloured food, social and ceremonial tag in one instance.

When confronted by fishery officers on the water, MacIntyre ignored repeated orders to stop and steamed back to the wharf.

Citing safety concerns, officers with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) did not pursue because of the large congregation onshore and number of people on board MacIntyre's boat. Officers watching the wharf noted that the entrance had been blocked by vehicles.

MacIntyre was arrested a day later at his home.

'Blatant' attempt to interfere in Membertou fishery

In Sydney provincial court, MacIntyre was fined $1,200 for obstructing fishery officers and $5,000 for tampering with traps.

Crown prosecutor Max Kruger said that was the more serious offence "given the fact that this was a blatant and overt attempt to interfere with the [food, social and ceremonial] fishery being engaged in by the Membertou First Nation."

MacIntyre's order to stay off the water is from July 25, 2023 to January 2024, which corresponds with the Membertou fishery.

The ban doesn't impact MacIntyre's ability to fish during the lobster season but will affect his groundfishing.

Kruger said the prosecution is an indication the federal government takes Membertou's right to engage in their food, social and ceremonial fishery seriously and "to try to prevent this kind of incident from happening again."

"It is designed to demonstrate specific and general deterrence — in this case, Your Honour — that the different interested parties in the fishery have to get along in Nova Scotia and that the FSC has their rights-based fishery, and that ought not to be interfered with by the privilege of fishery which is granted by the licensing system," he said.

Judge Diane McGrath accepted the sentence which was jointly recommended by Kruger and MacIntyre's lawyer, Matt Fraser.

"I hope that when you did interfere with those traps, it was without the knowledge that they were set by the Indigenous fishery and that this was not part of that larger dispute that has been ongoing," McGrath said in sentencing,

"Hopefully you've learned the lesson that in the end you concern yourself only with your traps and your gear and no one else's, just as you would not want anybody else to interfere with your gear."

MacIntyre was given 30 days to pay the fine, but intends to pay it this week.

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