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Lennox Island chief says First Nation has right to fish lobster in July

Lennox Island is not willing to part with its ceremonial fishery.
Lennox Island First Nation is not willing to part with its ceremonial fishery. - Eric McCarthy
LENNOX ISLAND, P.E.I. —

The chief of the Lennox Island First Nation says the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association should be looking at its members own fishing activity before making statements that she considered to be pointed directly at First Nations’ food, social and ceremonial fisheries.

Chief Darlene Bernard was reacting to a statement the PEIFA issued last week indicating it supports a mid-summer ban on all lobster fishing activity in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.

A news release indicated the ban, proposed as a conservation measure, would also include the food, social and ceremonial fishery, but as far as Bernard is concerned, that’s the only fishery that would be impacted by such a ban and she is having no part of it.

“It’s still rights-based,” Bernard said of the First Nations’ food social and ceremonial fishery. “It shouldn’t ever have been on anybody’s radar.”

The executive director of the fishermen’s association, Ian MacPherson indicated in an interview that it’s “primarily the month of July” that the association is focusing on, while a similar position taken by the Maritime Fishermen’s Union in New Brunswick identifies the period between July 7 and Aug. 7 as the time it wants a total ban on lobster fishing. The fishermen’s organizations point to the need to protect moulting and spawning lobsters as the reason they are seeking the ban.

“Changing climate conditions have resulted in warmer water and ambient temperatures in mid-summer, increasing the stress on the stock and increasing the need for protection in the form of a complete fishing ban,” the PEIFA wrote. “This would also include the food, social and ceremonial fishery as all lobsters need to be protected during their critical moulting and spawning period. This period typically falls between the Spring and Fall lobster seasons on P.E.I.”

Chief Bernard pointed out the commercial fishery sometimes extends into July, including this year after the opening of the spring fishery was delayed.

Bernard said the only lobster fishing members of her community take part in during July, is the ceremonial fishery primarily to supply lobsters for its annual St. Anne’s Sunday celebrations, and the haul for that is insignificant in comparison to what’s landed in the limited commercial fishing days in July.

The food and social part of their fishery, she said, takes place between August and October.

Bernard said she’s open to talking to the PEIFA about its concerns but she wants the association to take into consideration Lennox Island’s food, social and ceremonial fishery would land less than one per cent of the lobsters taken in the commercial fishery, and to consider that it is the First Nations fishery that is a constitutionally extended right.

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