An interim understanding between Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and four First Nations in western Nova Scotia has Indigenous fishers pursuing a moderate livelihood this season in lobster fishing areas (LFA) 33, 34 and 35.
Bear River, Annapolis Valley, Acadia and Glooscap First Nations jointly developed the Kespukwitk Netukulimk Livelihood Fisheries Management Plan for lobster that led to the interim understanding with DFO.
Bear River and Annapolis Valley First Nations will designate members from their communities who are authorized to harvest under the plan. Acadia and Glooscap First Nations may request their communities take part in fishing this season under the understanding at a later date, stated a media release from DFO.
Under the plan, designated Mi’kmaw harvesters are authorized to fish up to 3,500 lobster traps, up to 70 per harvester (210 per boat), during the established seasons in LFAs 33, 34 and 35, which surround the traditional Mi’kmaw Kespukwitk District.
“For the Kespukwitk district, it was important that we built a collective approach to livelihood fisheries for conservation and stewardship reasons,” said Chief Gerald Toney, Annapolis Valley First Nations and Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs Fisheries Lead, in a media release.
“We are neighbours and Treaty partners here in Kespukwitk. That is why it was so important for our communities to work together on how we would manage and use the resources in our district,” said Bear River First Nations Chief Carol Potter.
The interim understanding follows the path established by Potlotek First Nations with mutual understandings and cooperation from DFO.
“It is important that Mi’kmaw harvesters can exercise their rights without fear of their gear and equipment being seized. That is why we have been open and transparent, sharing our plan with DFO from the onset,” said Glooscap First Nations Chief Sidney Peters and Assembly Co-Chair.
“Our communities have worked together to build a solid plan and we took it through all the formal processes including consultation with Canada. DFO is fully aware of our plans moving forward,” said Acadia First Nations Chief Deborah Robinson.
The interim understanding was welcome news for the Unified Fisheries Conservation Alliance (UFCA), an association of commercial fishery stakeholders.
“We believe this is an important step in the right direction and are cautiously optimistic this model will have broader application, but there is still more work to be done,” said Colin Sproul, UFCA president in a media release.
“We are happy that this agreement will allow us to move forward, side by side, with the Kespukwitk Indigenous fishers on the water of LFAs 33, 34 and 35 this fall. The UFCA has always acknowledged the importance of cooperation with Indigenous communities, and that Indigenous fishermen have a right to fish for commercial, food, social and ceremonial purposes, but we will continue to vigorously defend that science-based rules must ultimately and clearly form part of an integrated set of regulations that effectively conserve fishery resources for generations to come and ensure a fair and respectful fishery for all.”
There will be no increase in fishing effort as a result of the interim understanding, says DFO.
“To ensure overall fishing effort does not increase in these lobster fishing areas (LFAs), fishing access will be offset by using existing banked licences, and as an interim approach, unfished traps in these areas,” said DFO spokesperson Lauren Sankey.
“DFO also launched a voluntary commercial licence and/or quota relinquishment process to support opportunities for rights-based fisheries. The relinquishment process was rolled out in a phased approach for DFO Maritimes region, starting with a focus on LFAs that align with moderate livelihood fishing plans received and the traditional territories in which they exist. The first round focused on LFAs 29, 30 and 36, followed closely by LFAs 33, 34 and 35. Other LFAs and fisheries may be included in future processes as needed. The department is in the process of reviewing submissions at this time.”
Sankey said DFO is actively working to advance agreements or interim understandings, (incremental or phased) with Indigenous communities on moderate livelihood fishing plans for next year’s fisheries.
“These arrangements could be yearly or longer, where Indigenous communities could develop a moderate livelihood fishing plan that meets the vision and needs of their community. All plans will be based on three key principles: implementing Treaty rights, conservation and sustainability of stocks, transparent and predictable management of the fishery,” said Sankey.
“These short-term agreements do not replace the need for longer term agreements that would serve to implement other aspects of First Nations rights and interests beyond authorized interim moderate livelihood fishing plans. The department’s priority continues to be the further implementation of the treaty right in a way that supports an orderly fishery and includes measures for conservation.”