Former N.B. First Nation chief questions early fishing season after boat capsizes

Last weekend, tragedy struck Elsipogtog First Nation when a crab fisher died and another went missing when the FV Tyhawk capsized in rough weather with five men aboard. FV Tyhawk deckhand Seth Monahan died after he was pulled from the water and the boat's captain, Craig Sock, is still missing. (SOURCE PAULINE YOUNG/FACEBOOK)

The former chief of a New Brunswick First Nation says she's concerned the crab fishing season began too early this year after a boat recently capsized off the coast of Cape Breton.

Susan Levi-Peters, former chief of the Elsipogtog First Nation, said in a recent interview more consultation is needed between Ottawa and First Nations fishers about when to open fishing seasons.

Levi-Peters says she and other members of the First Nation were concerned about the timing of this year's crab fishing season -- which usually begins sometime in mid-April -- but she says the federal Fisheries Department went ahead and opened it early.

"It's a different type of fishing than it would be in May or the end of April," she said. "They shouldn't have sent them out. They just shouldn't have sent them out," she added, about Ottawa's decision to open the season.

Last weekend, tragedy struck her community when a crab fisher died and another went missing when the FV Tyhawk capsized in rough weather with five men aboard. FV Tyhawk deckhand Seth Monahan died after he was pulled from the water and the boat's captain, Craig Sock, is still missing.

Others in the industry don't share Levi-Peters' concerns.

Jean Lanteigne, president of an association representing Acadian fishers, called the Federation regionale acadienne des pecheurs professionnels, said the early opening date was chosen to take advantage of a window of calm weather.

Lanteigne said members of the industry came together to agree on an opening date, adding that among those present were coast guard, DFO, fishermen's associations and First Nations fishers.

Inverness South Fishermen's Association president Jordan MacDougall echoed the sentiment and said he didn't think the early start was a factor in the accident. "Weather -- whether you go or not -- can be bad any time of the year," MacDougall said in a recent interview.

Levi-Peters, however, said concerns about the early start had circulated in the community and among the fishers themselves.

"They were concerned, but they're fishermen," she said. "If the seas are opened, they're the first ones out there at fishing time."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2021.