Vancouver Sun

SEC­OND MI'KMAQ FISH­ERY SPARKS `BIG EX­CITE­MENT'

Jobs cre­ated for young peo­ple, chief says

- MICHAEL TUT­TON

The leader of a First Na­tion in south­ern Cape Bre­ton that has started Nova Sco­tia's sec­ond self-reg­u­lated com­mer­cial Indige­nous fish­ery says it has cre­ated a mood of ex­cite­ment and op­ti­mism in his small com­mu­nity.

Wil­bert Mar­shall, the chief of Pot­lotek First Na­tion, said seven ves­sels are al­ready par­tic­i­pat­ing in the lob­ster fish­ery just three days into the new ef­fort. He said the boats are bring­ing in hun­dreds of pounds of lob­ster daily out­side of the fed­er­ally reg­u­lated sea­son.

Dur­ing a tele­phone in­ter­view on Sun­day, his nephew ar­rived to bor­row his trailer, which the young man planned to use to pur­chase lob­ster traps for an ad­di­tional ves­sel that will soon be li­censed by the Mi'kmaq band.

“It's cre­ated a big ex­cite­ment here. It's good to see they want to fish and make some money,” said the chief from his home in Pot­lotek, about 70 kilo­me­tres north­east of Syd­ney, N.S.

The com­mu­nity of about 700 re­mains short on hous­ing, and Mar­shall said young peo­ple in Pot­lotek are ea­ger to earn enough to buy their home rather than wait for the band's help.

“They don't want to rely on us. ... We're here to help them out and give them a means to do it,” he said.

The open­ing of the fish­ery on Thurs­day was sim­i­lar to the Sipekne'katik First Na­tion lob­ster fish­ery in western Nova Sco­tia, which started last month on the 21st an­niver­sary of a his­toric 1999 Supreme Court rul­ing.

In that de­ci­sion, the court de­cided that Don­ald Mar­shall Jr. had a treaty right to fish for eels when and where he wanted, with­out a li­cence.

The Mar­shall de­ci­sion also said the First Na­tions in East­ern Canada could hunt, fish and gather to earn a “mod­er­ate liveli­hood,” though the court fol­lowed up with a clar­i­fi­ca­tion two months later say­ing the treaty right was sub­ject to fed­eral reg­u­la­tion.

That ad­di­tional rul­ing is at the crux of the ar­gu­ment be­ing made by some non-Indige­nous fish­ers, who say First Na­tions must abide by Ottawa's con­ser­va­tion mea­sures.

The Rich­mond County In­shore Fish­er­men's As­so­ci­a­tion, the largest non-Indige­nous group fish­ing in the St. Peter's Bay area, sent an email de­clin­ing com­ment on the Pot­lotek fish­ery.

How­ever, Mar­shall said to date there have been no con­flicts on the wa­ter, un­like ten­sions which led to hun­dreds of the Sipekne'katik traps be­ing hauled from the wa­ters of St. Marys Bay by com­mer­cial har­vesters last month.

“So far, they (non-Indige­nous fish­ers) are talk­ing to the gov­ern­ment. They said they'll leave us alone. So far, it's been quiet here,” he said.

Mar­shall said the liveli­hood fish­ery plan re­quired 14 weeks to pre­pare, and is be­ing used now as a model by other bands around the prov­ince.

It al­lows a max­i­mum of 70 traps per per­son on the ves­sel, with a max­i­mum of 200 traps per ves­sel.

Craig Doucette, a 36-yearold Mi'kmaq lob­ster fish­er­man, said in an in­ter­view he caught about 110 pounds of lob­ster on Sun­day from his 20 traps placed in the St. Peter's Bay, us­ing his sixme­tre alu­minum boat.

He hopes to fish un­til the mid­dle of De­cem­ber, with a goal of about $40,000 in rev­enues.

“It's won­der­ful for us to be able to fish a self-gov­erned fish­ery and do it for our­selves, not work­ing for some­one else,” he said.

Doucette said each day there are five or 10 peo­ple stop­ping by the wharf to buy his catch.

“We want to work to­gether with oth­ers to make this work,” he said.

A spokes­woman for the fed­eral Fish­eries De­part­ment con­firmed that the Pot­lotek fish­ery will be the sub­ject of on­go­ing talks be­tween gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and Mar­shall.

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 ?? AN­DREW VAUGHAN / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS ?? Lob­ster fish­er­men, mem­bers of the Pot­lotek First Na­tion, head out from St. Peter's, N.S., on Thurs­day.
AN­DREW VAUGHAN / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS Lob­ster fish­er­men, mem­bers of the Pot­lotek First Na­tion, head out from St. Peter's, N.S., on Thurs­day.

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