November 13, 2020 – Ottawa, Ontario
“Conservation and sustainability underpin everything we do at Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). Indigenous and commercial harvesters share this priority, as their livelihoods depend on the health of our oceans and seafood stocks.
Our country operated for too long without considering First Nations rights, creating whole systems and institutions without including them. We have made progress since the 1999 Marshall decision, but recognize there is more work to do.
As First Nations look to exercise their Treaty Right to pursue a Moderate Livelihood, I want to underscore that we are working with communities to discuss their fishery plans and move quickly to reach agreements. Together we will ensure that the right is implemented in a way that ensures safe, orderly and sustainable fishing.
While lobster stocks are generally healthy, monitoring has recently indicated that fishing activities have significantly increased in St. Peters Bay. The scale and operation of current activities is even in excess of First Nation moderate livelihood fishing proposals. When there is a high concentration of traps in a particular area, it raises concerns regarding localized impacts to the stock.
DFO is responsible for the overall management of Canada’s fisheries and the stocks they depend on. We are stewards of the resource, as is everyone who uses it. When certain fishing activities are clearly unsustainable, fishery officers have a responsibility to act in order to preserve Canada’s coastal areas and resources. It is part of their role to enforce the regulations in place, in order to conserve shared fisheries resources. They too are members of our communities, and must not be subjected to threats or violence.
If fishery officers are concerned about excessive fishing negatively impacting long-term sustainability of lobster, they will need to take action – whoever is doing the fishing. I am asking that everyone respect DFO’s role. Let officers do their jobs. We do not want to escalate tensions, but rather to ensure that all fishing is conducted in a safe, orderly, and sustainable manner.
This Government is firmly committed to advancing reconciliation, and implementing Treaty Rights. That has not changed. We need to work out these differences at the table, not on the water. We need to sit down nation-to-nation. We need to do this through respectful, constructive dialogue.
It is all our responsibility to protect the shared resource. Our goal is, and always has been to develop a strong, stable, and productive fishery for the benefit of everyone involved.”