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LISTUGUJ, QC , Sept. 28, 2023 – Every fall, the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation (Listuguj) exercises its Peace and Friendship Treaties rights by fishing lobster. This fall, the fishery is growing. For the past 20 years, Listuguj has fished Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 21B, in the Baie des Chaleurs. Starting on September 30, Listuguj will also begin fishing further west, in waters adjacent to the community that, until now, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) considered unregulated.
“Reconciliation requires increasing First Nations’ access to resources,” said Scott Martin, Chief of the Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government. “This new community fishery is a step in the right direction. It means approximately a dozen more families will have a chance to get out on the water, exercise their rights, and support themselves.”
For generations, Canada denied Listuguj’s treaty rights. In 2021, Listuguj and Canada signed a rights reconciliation agreement that requires the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to respect Listuguj’s treaty rights and acknowledge Listuguj’s Indigenous laws in fisheries.
Listuguj governs its lobster fishery with its own law—the Listuguj Lobster Law. The fishery is monitored by the community’s own enforcement agency—the Mi’gmaq Rangers. Fisheries governance and enforcement are coordinated with the DFO through the process established by the rights reconciliation agreement.
This year, the Listuguj’s fall lobster fishery is expanding. In addition to Listuguj’s usual two-week fishery in LFA 21B, a small-scale community fishery will take place in the waters west of LFA 21B, north of the Quebec-New Brunswick border, and east of the J.C. Van Horne Bridge at the mouth of the Restigouche River. Designated community members will fish using up to five traps in small boats registered as pleasure craft. In keeping with their treaty right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood, community members will be able to decide for themselves how to use their catch—whether for food, social, ceremonial, or commercial purposes.
To receive the new licence, Listuguj developed a conservation harvesting plan for the expanded fishery under the Listuguj Lobster Law. Then, in collaboration with the DFO, it was agreed that Canada would sanction the fishery with an experimental licence for the new area issued under the Fisheries Act. As well, Listuguj and the DFO reviewed their enforcement protocol to ensure coordination between the Mi’gmaq Rangers and the DFO’s fisheries officers.
“Conservation is paramount,” said Chief Martin. “And so is ensuring that First Nations get their fair share of the fishery. That means we need to find creative ways to increase access. Our fall fishery is a leading example of how that can be done.”
The lobster population in the Gaspé region is healthy, with record landings being reported.
Listuguj’s new fall lobster fishery will run from September 30 to October 14, 2023.
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