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Fishermen's group grateful DFO lays charge stemming from lobster raid

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2018-07-20 Mairin Prentiss
a man wearing glasses: Colin Sproul, the vice-president of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association, said the key to solving the issue of lobster poaching is to take away the market. © CBC Colin Sproul, the vice-president of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association, said the key to solving the issue of lobster poaching is to take away the market.

A fishermen's association is pleased to see the Department of Fisheries and Oceans lay a charge against the owner of lobster pound in southwest Nova Scotia who is accused of selling lobster caught under an Aboriginal communal fishing licence.

Colin Sproul, vice-president of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association, said he's grateful DFO is taking action this summer.

"Last summer, there were an incredible amount of lobsters poached in southwest Nova Scotia," Sproul said on Thursday. "They weren't First Nations people poaching these lobsters. They were just being poached by poachers under the guise of the FSC [food, social and ceremonial] and sold.

"It's wrong and it hurts coastal communities whether they're Indigenous or non-Indigenous."

The company, 9902848 Canada Inc.- Guang Da International and its owner, Sheng Ren Zheng, are accused of selling lobster that were caught under a communal licence, which Indigenous communities use to fish out of season for food, social and ceremonial purposes. DFO says it's illegal to sell or buy anything caught under those licences.

a large ship in a body of water: A fishing boat is tied up in Belliveaus Cove, the home community for Guang Da International. © Stephanie Blanchet/CBC A fishing boat is tied up in Belliveaus Cove, the home community for Guang Da International.

An employee at the company said they had no comment.

The charges follow raids by fisheries officers last October on the lobster pound in Belliveaus Cove, N.S., and a seizure of seafood from Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

Purchasers become targets

Based on evidence gathered, DFO determined the appropriate way forward was to charge the purchaser, said Brady Stevenson, a DFO officer.

"In this file, and in our work this year, the emphasis has been placed on purchasers of fish and their legal obligations to buy fish that was harvested that allows sale," said Stevenson.

Stevenson said he did not know if the harvester will also be charged.

Sproul said the fishermen's association respects the right of Indigenous people to use communal licences and doesn't want to see DFO bothering them on the water.

That's why the association asked DFO to target those who buy lobster illegally for resale, rather than the harvesters, he said.  

"The key to solving this problem is following those lobsters from the point of supply to their markets," he said. "Take away the market for poached lobsters, you take away the problem. It's just that simple."

Last fall, tensions were high in southwest Nova Scotia when fishermen in the area said they believed some people using communal licenses were selling lobsters . They protested outside a DFO office asking the department to enforce their own rules.

In September, Morley Knight, DFO assistant deputy minister,  said there were "clear indications" of abuse in the communal fishery  and they would focus on both illegal sellers and buyers.

Following the protest, Membertou First Nation Chief Terry Paul said the federal government had to define and deliver on the 1999 Supreme Court of Canada landmark ruling in the Marshall case that gave Mi'kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy the right to earn a moderate living from the fishery.

Paul said Mi'kmaq fishermen using communal licences can't be blamed for trying to make a living.

Sproul said much work has been done by Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to ease tensions.

"To me, the biggest fear is seeing all that come back because of the actions of a few criminals. It's really wrong. And it's not fair to anybody."

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