Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan has sent a proposed memorandum of understanding to the Sipekne’katik First Nation regarding its moderate livelihood lobster fishery.
The band says the draft MOU was received Friday evening and will be reviewed by its lawyers before it will be shared with the public.
The only details made available so far are that the deal includes an acknowledgement of the band’s right to sell its catch and that it will be based on the band’s existing management plan but jointly enforced by Sipekne’katik fisheries guardians and Department of Fisheries and Oceans enforcement officers.
“We always wanted to work with them on that aspect, so that they had comfort in knowing that we are following our plan,” Chief Mike Sack said Sunday of joint enforcement.
Outstanding issues include who issues tags for the moderate livelihood lobster traps, something Sipekne’katik began doing itself in September, as well as the season for this new fishery and the geographic area the community’s fishers would be allowed to operate in.
All have been hot-button topics for commercial fishers, whose season is scheduled to start Monday.
Commercial fishers in St. Marys Bay allege Sipekne’katik has actually been operating a large unregulated commercial fishery outside of the commercial season in the area over recent years. They point to a precipitous drop in landings from the bay during the commercial season over the past three years.
Fishing associations weren’t allowed in on the negotiations between Sipekne’katik and Jordan.
Jordan conducted the majority of those negotiations without having read the two Supreme Court of Canada decisions, R. vs. Marshall and a clarification known as Marshall II. She claims to have read them two weeks ago.
“People feel in the dark, left out of the loop,” Conservative fisheries critic Richard Bragdon said Sunday.
“There’s been a complete lack of communication by this minister.”
DFO hasn’t made any public statements about what is in the MOU or whether the minister intends to negotiate separately with each First Nation about what its moderate livelihood fishery looks like.
Talks broke down between Jordan and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs in October.
The Bear River and Acadia First Nations, which are in southwestern Nova Scotia, both issued public letters stating that Sipekne’katik had started its moderate livelihood fishery within their territory without consulting them.
Sipekne'katik's home community is about 277 kilometres away from Lower Saulnierville.
“We have historical ties to this area,” Sack said when questioned on the concerns of local First Nations.
“(The assembly) is just misleading those communities.”
Sack said he hopes to have a final agreement hammered out with DFO within the next week or two.
“This agreement has the potential to be a historic recognition of our treaty rights and to make good on the promise and legacy of Donald Marshall Jr.’s work which was recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada over 21 years ago,” Sack said in a news release earlier Sunday.
“We will be conducting due diligence on the finer details of the MOU this week, however, it is very meaningful that Minister Jordan and her team produced an agreement which acknowledges our right to sell, particularly as the commercial season opens.”
- Fisheries minister says she hasn't read Marshall decisions in full
- Sack threatens to shut down commercial lobster fishery
- COMMENTARY: Conflict over Mi'kmaw lobster fishery reveals confusion over who makes the rules
- Sipekne’katik and DFO hold Sept. 29 discussions about band's moderate livelihood plan