Minister Reaffirms DFO Power to Regulate Mi’kmaq Fishery During Visit to Atlantic Canada


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Joyce Murray reaffirmed that the federal government has the power to regulate moderate subsistence fishing in M’ikmaw as she made her first visit to Atlantic Canada this week as Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

The member for Vancouver has spent her time on the East Coast meeting with provincial governments, industry, aboriginal leaders and environmentalists.

Murray said Thursday that his ministry works “closely and closely” with Mi’kmaq communities and remains committed to the sustainability of the fishery.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that fisheries are managed sustainably over the long term, as well as to respect the ability of local fishermen to earn a living. Reconciliation is very important to us. Legal rulings are clear that moderate livelihood fishing is an important component of fishing, ”Murray told CBC News.

The Supreme Court of Canada decisions in the Marshall case recognized the right of the Mi’kmaq to earn a modest living from fishing, subject to management by the federal and provincial governments in areas of their own. skill.

The debate has continued for decades over the right of First Nations to earn “a moderate livelihood” by fishing, confirmed by a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1999. (Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press)

This power is not accepted by the Sipekne’katik Band in particular, which has started its own self-regulated lobster fishery, as is the Pictou Landing Band.

However, all is not conflicting. Three bands in southwestern Nova Scotia have reached an agreement with DFO for a licensed livelihood lobster fishery when the commercial season opens in the area later this month. The Acadia group joined Thursday.

Marshall decision

Murray was vague when asked if moderate subsistence fishing should take place during existing commercial seasons – a position held by his predecessor, Bernadette Jordan.

“You are talking to a minister who has been in office for three weeks,” Murray said. “So what I’m going to say is that we are responsible for the sustainability of the fishery and seasonality is a key part of that.”

Jordan has been mocked by opponents after saying she did not read Marshall’s landmark decision. Murray declined to respond directly when asked twice if she had read it, saying only that she was “aware of the key things”.

The Assembly of Mi’kmaw Chiefs of Nova Scotia said on Friday that no one was available to respond to the minister’s comments.

Redfish stock

Murray also spoke about the reopening of the commercial redfish fishery, which is at the center of an interprovincial dispute over quotas.

The yellow perch population, as it is also called, has exploded to around four million tonnes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

A 1995 moratorium effectively ended the redfish harvest, but a now booming population has groups and provinces pushing for large shares of the quota for the upcoming harvest. (Submitted by the Marine Institute)

Companies from Nova Scotia and Quebec held most of the quota when the fishery was closed in the 1990s, and both provinces want the traditional allocation restored. In Newfoundland and Labrador, a campaign is underway to allocate the majority of the quota to inshore fishermen in that province.

“It’s a fishery that has collapsed and has had some rebound, and we’re not going to rush to open this fishery,” Murray said.

“So we have time to make sure we take into account the views we’ve heard and find a way to reopen the fishery that is sustainable and as fair as possible.”

Also on Thursday, the minister rejected demands from aging fishermen asking for the right to sell their Class B lobster licenses, saying she had no intention of making those licenses salable or transferable.

Reimbursement of the fisherman’s compensation

She also addressed an issue facing nearly 4,200 Canadian fishing vessel crews, including 2,300 in Nova Scotia, who were told they had to reimburse a fishing benefit issued as part of the program. ‘COVID assistance program in 2020. DFO ruled that they were salaried employees and therefore ineligible because the program was intended for self-employed fishermen.

“If people received something they weren’t entitled to, whether intentionally or not, we would expect that to be refunded to Canadian taxpayers,” Murray said.

This year, DFO relaunched consultations to create more marine protected areas. Canada is committed to preserving 25% of oceans and coastal areas by 2025 and 30% by 2030.

Murray wouldn’t say if any of the more controversial candidate areas will be protected in time to meet the 2025 target.

Marine protected areas

Despite repeated assurances to the contrary from DFO, local lobster fishermen are fighting to protect the Eastern Shore Islands in Nova Scotia because they fear it will take away their livelihood.

“I’m not really going to single out any particular Marine Protected Area. The program is incredibly important and it’s important to hear the voices of all stakeholders as we move forward,” Murray said.

“This is a very important part of our government’s international engagement, but also of restoring, regenerating habitat and fisheries for the benefit of all over the long term.”

A proposed marine protected area on the east coast of Nova Scotia prompted a reaction from the local fishing community. (SRC)

Murray said his ministry was ready to listen before making final decisions. She said that as minister her commitment is to the health of the fisheries.

“What Atlantic Canadians will get is a Minister who is fully committed to the regeneration, restoration and protection of stocks so that we have an abundance and diversity of opportunities for people, socially and economically. , in the years to come, ”she said.

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