Nova Scotia Fisheries Minister Proposes $1 Million Fine for Illegal Lobster Trade

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In response to a mounting concern over unlawful lobster fishing in southwestern Nova Scotia, the provincial Minister of Fisheries has declared his intention to elevate the apex fine for commercial vendors found guilty of out-of-season lobster trade to $1 million.

Steve Craig expressed his intentions following a cabinet conference this past Thursday and was propelled by disconcerting accounts suggesting “industrial-scale” fishing activities being carried out beyond the federally administered season in the vicinity of St. Marys Bay, near Digby, N.S.

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“I refuse to overlook complex or challenging matters,” Craig asserted. His stance highlights his ongoing dialogue with federal officials and commercial fisherman, with the objective of a significant rise in the said fine.

The province is tasked with the regulation of sea product commerce such as buying, selling, and processing, which includes lobsters. Currently, the prevailing maximum fine for individuals or businesses indulging in out-of-season trade stands at $100,000.

Craig’s stance resonates with an unwavering commitment to a strict no-tolerance strategy against the off-season trade of all species.

“I’m not merely hoping to dissuade; instead, I’m focusing on introducing a substantive consequence,” he affirmed. He echoed that the present fine of $100,000 was inadequate, insisting on arming the courts with the authority to penalize up to $1 million.

Coupled with existing punitive measures such as commercial license revocation and barring convicted fisheries offenders from associating with sea product commerce, Craig envisages the enhanced fine.

On the timeline and modality of enforcing this change—be it legislation or regulation—Craig remained noncommittal, simply stating, “as soon as we are able.”

The proposed adjustment was well received by the Liberal Leader, Zach Churchill, whose party had earlier in the day urged the minister to heighten the fine to $1 million.

Churchill voiced his concern over the repercussions of unregulated fishing on the local economy and conservation, leading to increased volatility.

St. Marys Bay had previously witnessed friction in September 2020 when the Sipekne’katik First Nation initiated a self-regulated lobster fishery operating outside the business season, defending their treaty-backed rights to derive reasonable livelihood from fishing. This setting sparked clashes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers, resulting in two lobster pound riots, with one razed in an arson.

According to the latest updates, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans seized 464 traps for breaking Fisheries Act rules in southwestern Nova Scotia’s LFAs 33 and 34 and arrested two individuals from Saulnierville, N.S. Additionally, they confiscated more than 8,000 lobsters, which were subsequently returned to the ocean.

In a press release, the department reaffirmed its commitment to continual action against unauthorized harvesting, while also supporting the lawful exercise of fishing rights.