RPPSG: Lobster Fishermen Wonder Who Governs the Fisheries

Chandler, Quebec, CANADA

Following Listuguj's statements of September 26, 2022 and the response of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, commercial lobster fishermen in Gaspesie are wondering who governs and manages the lobster fishery.

CHANDLER, Quebec, Oct. 05, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today the lobster stock is healthy almost everywhere in Gaspesie. However, according to the RPPSG scientist, worrying indicators suggest that something is happening in the bottom of the Baie des Chaleurs in area 21B.

“Constantly since 2008, we have seen the increase in a worrying male-female ratio in fishing area 21B of Baie des Chaleurs, which is very much to the detriment of females. By 2018, less than 20% of the stock in this area was constituted of females. The proportion of the number of females is an important indicator in determining the capacity of this stock to sustain a fishing effort. The establishment of a second fishing season in Gaspesie in the fall has a direct impact on the stocks available in the spring and for the following years.” says Jean Côté, scientist at the Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels du sud de la Gaspésie.

In the opinion of DFO scientists themselves in 2009 and 2012, the fishing effort in area 21B should have been reduced so that it remains below historical levels and, as they pointed out in 2020, the "basic principle : for conservation purposes, avoid changes that are likely to increase fishing pressure. ". In the opinion of DFO itself in 2019, the creation of a commercial fall fishery can only increase the pressure on stocks. However, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has just authorized for the second consecutive year a commercial fall fishery for the Listuguj band. The band has 5 fishing licenses and also fishes commercially in the spring. Furthermore, DFO has just increased the spring fishing effort in the same area at the request of another band.

“We are appalled to see yet again the Department of Fisheries and Oceans ignoring stock conservation measures for sustainable fishing for all and the advice of scientists. Only the spring lobster fishery is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewartship Council through the efforts of commercial fishermen. The implementation of a set of measures that had been accepted by all the fishermen, including Listuguj, were never applied in practice to the licenses held by the Band.” said O'Neil Cloutier "By putting conservation at the back of its decision-making, DFO is not applying the precautionary principle so that there is a sustainable fishery for all and future generations in this area. »

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada emphasizes a “collaborative” approach between the band rangers and the department following the establishment of a non-public protocol for cooperation in law enforcement. DFO indicates a division of roles, namely that the Listuguj rangers who have no authority under the federal Fisheries Act "will apply everything that arises from the law on lobster, which is specific to the first nation, and the Fishery officers are going to cover all of the other offenses that are covered by federal fisheries law. »

However, only the Parliament of Canada has the exclusive power to legislate in matters of fisheries. Today we are faced with a fait accompli where different laws and different management systems apply depending on the ethnicity of a fisherman. The RPPSG is surprised that the monitoring and catch reporting measures are not the same for commercial fishermen in the spring and the commercial fishermen of Listuguj in the fall. How can the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Listuguj, through an agreement negotiated and signed in secret, remove this exclusive power from the Canadian Parliament without anyone knowing?

In September 2021, the First Nation declared that it had a right to govern its affairs on its lands and waters, including decision-making for the community's lobster fishermen. In 2022, the First Nation declared that “Canada is finally beginning to recognize that the best way to ensure the security and sustainability of our fisheries is to step aside and let us govern. »

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has clearly lost control of the fisheries and has at least given up part of its exclusive responsibility to ensure the management and conservation of resources for all Canadians, whether they are aboriginal or non-Aboriginal, while the Minister has the right and the power to regulate the exercise of Aboriginal fishing rights for reasons of conservation and public interest, as it has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada on several occasions.

Several studies conducted with Canadians clearly show that they do not want fisheries to be managed differently depending on whether they are practiced by First Nations or Non-Natives and that the law should apply in the same way for everyone.


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