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P.E.I.’s Lennox Island First Nation to launch treaty lobster fishery without DFO deal

The Lennox Island First Nation says it will be launching a treaty lobster fishery off P.E.I.’s North Shore next week with or without the federal government’s support.

The First Nation has a clear treaty right to harvest lobster for a moderate livelihood without the federal government’s approval — a right affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1999 Marshall ruling.

The community had said in 2021 that it wanted to start such a fishery, but chose to first negotiate with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on specific conditions that would be put in place.

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Chief Darlene Bernard told CBC News Thursday that the community has waited long enough, and so Lennox Island has created its own management plan. It includes: 

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  • A maximum of 1,000 traps being put out for the year.
  • A timeframe that falls within the commercial season, using the community’s own wharf and infrastructure.
  • Respect for DFO rules with regard to trap size and conservation measures. 

Bernard said the community sent the plan to the DFO last week, but has not heard back.

Darlene bernard business
Lennox Island First Nation Chief Darlene Bernard says the community doesn’t intend to wait any longer for a deal with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It will launch a treaty fishery for lobster on May 7. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC)

The First Nation intends to launch the treaty fishery on Saturday, May 7, weather permitting.

About 25 people from Lennox Island already harvest lobster as part of the commercial fishery, set to open early in the week of May 2, as long as the weather and ocean conditions are favourable.

Bernard told CBC News that if there is any violence on the water aimed at Lennox Island treaty fishermen, the band will consider DFO to be responsible. 

Sipekne katik fishermen business
In this photo from September 2021, fishermen from Sipekne’katik, the second-largest Mi’kmaq band in Nova Scotia, handle lobster traps on a wharf. (Robert Short/CBC)

She added that representatives from Lennox Island met with the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association earlier this week to share details of the plan.

CBC News has reached out to the association, DFO and the provincial fisheries department for comment, but has not heard back. 

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