Moderate livelihood fishery launched by First Nation in Cape Breton

This file photo shows a fishing boat framed by lobster traps in West Dover, N.S. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

A Nova Scotia First Nation has launched a moderate livelihood lobster fishery in Cape Breton with approval from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The department issued a statement Friday saying it came to an understanding with the We'koqma'q First Nation that authorizes fishers in the community to harvest and sell their catch in accordance with the Netukulimk Livelihood Fisheries Plan.

The understanding is linked to the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision that affirmed the treaty right of Indigenous harvesters to fish for a moderate livelihood, but the court later clarified that Ottawa could regulate the treaty right for conservation and other limited purposes.

A statement from We'koqma'q Chief Annie Bernard-Daisley says the time for such an agreement has come, adding Mi'kmaw harvesters should be able to exercise their rights "without fear of their gear and equipment being seized."

A number of Mi'kmaw fishing traps have previously been seized by DFO officers or targeted in acts of alleged vandalism.

We'koqma'q is now the sixth First Nation to come to an agreement with Ottawa for moderate livelihood fishing in Nova Scotia, along with Potlotek, Pictou Landing, Acadia, Bear River and Annapolis Valley.

The understanding between the DFO and We'koqma'q limits fishers to 210 traps in each of two designated fishing zones where lobster stock is considered to be in the "Healthy Zone," said the department of fisheries' release.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 22, 2022.