The Christian Science Monitor : 2020-12-07

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WHY WE WROTE THIS In the days that followed, local fishers harassed and assaulted the Indigenous lobsterers. They briefly barricaded one in a storage facility, which days later was burned to the ground. They seized crates of lobsters harvested by the Indigenous community; hundreds of lobsters were subsequent­ly found dumped on the ground. Top Canadian officials quickly condemned the violence. The attacks spawned headlines around the world in what became known as Canada’s “lobster wars.” Now, with the commercial season in Nova Scotia’s most lucrative lobster fishing area, LFA 34, just opening, the two sides have never been more divided. Sipekne’katik First Nation announced Nov. 13 it would file a series of lawsuits against non-Indigenous fishers for alleged damages. Commercial fishers and many in the tightknit communitie­s where lobstering is the backbone of the economy say it’s unfair that the Mi’kmaq are fishing outside the regular season, citing a decline in the population of the species as their prime concern. Indigenous fishers and their allies counter that this is yet another example of racism and an inability of Canadians and their government to enforce their legal rights. It’s a battle about jobs and livelihood­s, ethnic identities and cultures, and deeply embedded family and social traditions. Yet it’s also a clash about something else: the future of what was once one of the most fecund fisheries in the world. Both sides recognize they have a shared federal fishery laws. The Marshall case went all the way to Canada’s Supreme Court, which ruled in 1999 that the Mi’kmaw and Maliseet people had the right to a “moderate livelihood” fishery – one defined ambiguousl­y as providing “necessitie­s” but not for the “accumulati­on of wealth” – outside the federally regulated fishing season. The English and French, for their part, settled in the Maritimes centuries ago for the stocks of cod, salmon, halibut, and lobster that thrived in the chilly Atlantic waters. But in the 1990s, groundfish stocks in the area – including, most infamously, northern cod – collapsed. Other fisheries, such as scallop grounds, shrank and their harvesting passed into corporate hands. That has left lobster as the only community-based inshore fishery in the region. Today lobster is king in Nova Scotia, its top export commodity. The industry itself, romanticiz­ed from the outside, is one of the reasons this conflict has made headlines around the world. Trevor Corson, the author of “The Secret Life of Lobsters,” notes how lobsters capture the imaginatio­n and symbolize a “kind of rugged individual­ism.” “The lobster is a classic monster, almost alien, seemingly built for pure survival in the dark depths, and if it were any bigger it would terrify us,” he says. The violent clashes have hurt the pride of Nova Scotia, the heart of Canada’s billiondol­lar lobster industry. Indeed, Susan Beaton, a commercial lobsterwom­an, notes how much lobstering is bound up in the image of the province. But the latest skirmishes are “turning that on its head,” she says. Growing up, her father harvested lobster, as well as other species. As a teenager, Ms. Beaton helped him catch groundfish with gillnets on Nova Scotia’s North Shore, and she would arrive back at the wharf covered in fish entrails. Ms. Beaton bought her own lobster license in the 1990s, shortly after the Marshall decision. In her experience, Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers have worked peacefully alongside one another in the commercial season, which runs May to June in her area, for the past two decades. But she says the recent launch of moderate livelihood fisheries outside the commercial season has non-Indigenous lobsterers, many of whom have watched the collapse of other species due to poor management, worrying about the impact on conservati­on – a claim many scientists question. “I think some of the urgency we feel about it is that it’s been fairly well managed. We’ve sort of hit a sweet spot now with lobster,” she says. “And we’ve been pretty stable. So yeah, we’re pretty guarded about it. We know that ... it doesn’t take much to Canada has sought to redress historic grievances among its Indigenous population­s. Its handling of a dispute over fishing rights in Nova Scotia shows the challenge of navigating cultural and economic divisions. interest in keeping the industry thriving in a place that has been traumatize­d by declining fish stocks. This is especially true at a time when the pandemic has temporaril­y cut off customers for the area’s succulent crustacean­s. Even more worrisome, climate change is threatenin­g to undermine local stocks permanentl­y. All these forces are swirling in the cobalt waters off Nova Scotia, where everyone also knows one other painful fact: Lobster is the only real option left to harvest viably from these waters. r r r Both sides have deep ties to the sea. The Mi’kmaq have hunted and fished for thousands of years across Atlantic Canada. They maintained their right to do so after colonizati­on, as enshrined in the Peace and Friendship Treaties of 1752 and 1760-61. But the treaties have never been systematic­ally upheld. Then, in 1993, a man named Donald Marshall Jr. decided to go fishing. He tried to illegally catch eels as an assertion of his Indigenous rights. Authoritie­s charged him with three counts of violating JOHN MORRIS/REUTERS Canadian federal police officers investigat­e the remains of a lobster pound that was destroyed by a fire in Middle West Pubnico, Nova Scotia. Local fishers reacted angrily to the launch by Indigenous lobsterers of a self-regulated fishery in September. 24 THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEKLY | DECEMBER 7, 2020 PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTE­D BY PRESSREADE­R PressReade­ +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW