Nova Scotia Fishermen, Politicians Decry Rampant Unauthorized Lobster Fishing


The escalating frustration with unauthorized lobster fishing in Nova Scotia’s southwestern province is resonating among its fishermen and local politicians. The focus of their discontent is the perceived industrial scale commercial fishery taking place in St. Marys Bay near Digby, N.S. Colin Sproul, a representative from the Unified Fisheries Conservation Alliance, criticized the current situation as “outrageous”, questioning the federal fishery officials’ commitment to enforcement.

Sproul posits the pivotal question, “Does the Canadian government have the intent to enforce existing Canadian fishery policy and law?” He asserts that the fishing and coastal communities in Nova Scotia hold a collective belief that it does not.

Historically, St. Marys Bay was the site of disputes in September 2020 as the Sipekne’katik First Nation initiated a self-regulated lobster fishery outside the commercial season boundaries. The contrast in fishing methods ignited tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers leading to confrontations on the water and riots at two lobster pounds. One of these establishments was later intentionally set afire.

The Sipekne’katik First Nation’s fisheries officials, although currently unavailable for comment, have consistently maintained their treaty right to make a living from fishing. The Sipekne’katik tribe filed a lawsuit against Fisheries and Oceans Canada on July 21 in response to an incident where two band members’ traps were confiscated by a fishery officer at the wharf in Saulnierville, N.S, on July 18.

The lawsuit cites infringement of the Aboriginal right to participate in the harvest and sale of lobster due to the department’s actions. The tribe maintains that the local enforcement prevented the band members from participating in a livelihood fishery.

The commercial lobster fishing season closure on May 31 in southwest Nova Scotia seems not to have deterred illegal fishing activities in the vicinity. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans disclosed that since July 17, their officers had seized 321 lobster traps for non-compliance with regulations while ensuring their live return to the ocean.

The situation led to local Conservative MPs Chris d’Entremont and Rick Perkins penning a letter to federal Fisheries Minister Diane Lebouthillier, pleading for urgent measures to combat the rampant poaching. According to the MPs, unlicensed boats are partaking in such fishing practices at a level reminiscent of the 2020 crisis. They raised concerns over the delicate reproduction cycle of the lobsters, which face an imminent threat due to overfishing.

Nova Scotia’s Opposition Liberals have added their voice to the issue, urging the province to enforce a zero-tolerance stance towards illegal commercial purchasing of lobster. Provincial jurisdiction over lobster sales licensing makes this a pertinent issue. Colin Sproul also pressured the province to eliminate the black market for lobsters, accusing the government of renouncing its role in controlling the situation.

The Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries has yet to comment.


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