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Moving forward on lobster fishery means addressing access and conservation – Policy Options

The situation unfolding in the Nova Scotia lobster fishery raises larger questions around who holds decision-making power over this natural resource.

October 28, 2020

Back in 1999, the Supreme Court’s Marshall decision recognized that Mi’kmaq First Nations have had, and continue to have, a treaty right to catch and sell fish. As a result, First Nations have been increasing their presence in the fishery over the past 20 years. Yet all that time, what the Court specified as the Mi’kmaq right to a so-called “moderate livelihood” – for “individual Mi’kmaq families at present-day standards” – was never clearly defined.

Now, more than 20 years later, this remains a stumbling block, as new “moderate livelihood” Indigenous fisheries are emerging. Further, these new fisheries have another crucial angle – First Nations are developing their own fishery management and conservation plans, making this about Indigenous self-governance as well as about catching lobsters. Indeed, what we’re seeing unfolding off the coast of Nova Scotia touches on two themes that come up worldwide: who sets the rules for conservation of resources, and who has access to harvesting that resource.

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