Mi’kmaw Communities Condemn DFO’s Position on Lobster Trap Allocation
In May 2023, Mi’kmaw communities in the traditional district of Kespukwitk – Annapolis Valley, Bear River, Glooscap and Wasoqopa’q (Acadia) – contacted the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to discuss the expected participation levels of Treaty Right Protected (TRP) lobster harvesters from their communities. It was during these discussions, the communities conveyed an anticipated 75 TRP lobster harvesters by November 27, 2023. This projection aligns with the expected participation communicated earlier this year.
According to the Kespukwitk TRP Species-Specific Lobster Plan, shared on October 12, each authorized harvester is permitted to use 100 traps. With 75 harvesters, that would involve 7,500 traps. While DFO has agreed to support an individual allocation of 100 traps, the limit imposed by DFO, of a total of 5250 traps, goes against the Kespukwitk interim plan.
The recent public release from DFO contradicts their earlier support of increased participation levels in-season and adequate trap allocation. DFO had been informed that the number of traps allocated to the district by DFO in previous years was not adequate. Despite the increased number of Mi’kmaw Treaty harvesters this year, DFO has chosen to maintain the same number of traps as in previous years.
“This news is frustrating for the communities, as we have made several attempts to demonstrate the insufficiency of the current trap allocation, particularly within the commercial lobster season.” expressed Chief Gerald Toney, Fisheries Co-Lead for the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs and Chief of Annapolis Valley First Nation.
Requests to DFO have gone unanswered, leaving harvesters to struggle once again to provide for their families, while exercising their Treaty Rights. “DFO is not working nation-to-nation,” Chief Toney continued. “There need to be opportunities to discuss and resolve the issues we face with our Treaty Right Protected fisheries. Our Treaty Rights to harvest and sell are a constitutional priority. The courts said that DFO is to work with us on the implementation of the Right, not have DFO just dictate to us what they want.”
In the interest of conservation and collaborative fisheries management, the Kespukwitk communities have provided harvester names, tag and vessel information, as well as catch data, to DFO. “We believe that being open and transparent about what we are doing will contribute to the overall effectiveness of the TRP lobster harvest and to conservation. It’s time that DFO operates the same way,” Chief Toney emphasized.
At this time, all four Kespukwitk First Nations will distribute 100 tags to each Mi’kmaw harvester registered to fish under the TRP plan and with registered vessels. The responsibility now lies with DFO to secure adequate access and accommodate the Rights of Mi’kmaw harvesters.