Membertou fishing boat catches fire overnight in Westmount

A fishing boat that belongs to a Mi'kmaw community in Cape Breton caught fire overnight.

The boat, owned by Membertou, had been tied up at the Dobson Yacht Club in Westmount, N.S.

John Paul, the most recent captain of the vessel, found out what happened on Facebook.

"Just sad, disappointed, a little bit angry," said Paul, a fisherman based in Sydney. "It's a good thing nobody — we could have decided to stay on the boat for the night."

Paul took photos of the charred boat and shared them on Facebook. The back of the boat, along with what appeared to be lobster traps, are charred.

A media release posted to Membertou's Facebook page on Saturday said they became aware of the fire at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday. 

Membertou says the boat sustained "significant damage" and Cape Breton Regional Police are investigating.

"It's a complete writeoff," Paul said.

Submitted by John Paul

Cape Breton Regional Police didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

While it's unclear how the fire started, Membertou said in its release that its fisheries have been experiencing vandalism for more than a month.

"Earlier in September, 100 lobster traps belonging to Membertou were cut; the traps were being fished with Food Social Ceremonial tags," the release stated.

Membertou has set new traps to distribute food for community members.

"I was just doing this to feed my community and that was it, every lobster we caught — we caught about 400 lobsters — and every single one we gave away to our Membertou band members," Paul said.

In the Membertou media release, Chief Terry Paul said acts of violence will not be tolerated.

"Our community has a food fishery, and we also have the right to a moderate livelihood within the fishing resources," he said.

"Our entire community was disappointed to learn about the fire last night aboard the Membertou II, but as always, we will keep fishing."