Release: Sipekne’katik Mi’kmaq launch legal, sustainable and self-regulated fishery

SIPEKNE’KATIK: Chief and Council have decided to operate a “phased approach” to our  livelihood fishery, which is to determine: 

a. how much interest there is in livelihood fishing in the community; b. what constitutes a “livelihood” for our members and their families; and, c. what fishing effort (days, traps, and season) are required to produce a  moderate livelihood for our fishers. 

As in any new entrance into a fishery, some fishers may harvest more than a moderate  livelihood, while others may harvest less. This is intentional. The effect of this phased approach to our fishery on a commercial lobster industry that lands sixty million pounds  of catch is insignificant. We will collect and analyze data after the season so that data  will be available for future use, and modifications to our management plan, if needed,  can be made in the fishing effort. 

The lobster caught in our fishery will be available for sale to the public or fish buyers  through both a community truckhouse and a band established regulatory process on  reserve.  

We trust the lobster industry and DFO to respect our processes, which are intended to  be of mutual benefit and to resolve and bring certainty to a long-standing constitutional  breach.  

Background: 

The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R.v. Marshall decided twenty-one years  ago on September 17, 1999.  

No responsible person can legitimately argue that the Mi’kmaq right to fish for a  moderate livelihood or that the right to sell that catch commercially does not exist. The  Supreme Court of Canada said they do. 

Since Marshall was decided, DFO has done nothing to recognize the Treaty right to  harvest and sell for a moderate livelihood. This breach of Mi’kmaq Constitutional rights  and can no longer continue.

In the past twenty years, there have been some discussions with DFO about the  recognition of a rights-based livelihood fishery. Those discussions have not proceeded  very far due to a lack of shared understanding about what “moderate livelihood” means  and what fishing effort is required to achieve it. 

Dr. Fred Wein conducted a study of Mi’kmaq’s needs a few years ago. Still, he was not  able to say very much about the livelihood fishery because there had been no example  of a livelihood harvest that was both unconstrained and well documented. That is what  is needed before anyone could draw research-based conclusions about Mi’kmaq’s  needs.