A large sign posted at the demonstration cite explains why fishermen are gathered, stating, “DFO and the Canadian Government need to enforce their own regulations and protect our stock,” and, “Our issue is NOT with Aboriginal fishers.”
Demonstration spokesman and lobster fisherman Matthew Theriault said the protests focus on the overall lack of DFO enforcement, and the need for proper fishing practices.
“The bottom line is we don’t want overfishing to happen,” he said.
Demonstrating for enforcement
A group of fishermen gathered peacefully in Yarmouth September 6, and again on the 7, to discuss the issue.
September 14 marked the first day of official demonstrations at several DFO locations across the region.
The right to Food, Social and Ceremonial fishing was recognized in 1999 in the R v. Marshall case, granting Mi'kmaq and Maliseet First Nations members the right to fish to earn a “moderate living.”
Theriault confirmed the issue is not with this right, which the fishermen respect, but rather any commercial fishing of lobster taking place outside the normal season, which runs from November to May in Digby.
“We’re here to put some pressure on DFO to enforce laws that already exist,” said Theriault.
“We don’t think they’re doing a good enough job.”
Theriault says DFO responded to the group saying they don’t have enough personnel on the job for enforcement.
David Whorley, DFO’s Area Director for South West Nova Scotia, said this is not the department’s position.
“It’s not a question of resources,” he said.
“We have the resources. The enforcement branch of DFO has been active on the FSC fishery. Our enforcement happens both on and off the water, in different ways.”
Whorley said it’s DFO’s stance that most fishermen – including indigenous Nova Scotians – are law-abiding, but acknowledged cash sales of any fish caught makes it harder to track, and later enforce.
“Cash sales in a range of fisheries, including the FSC, are hard to chase. There are investigative techniques and work is presently ongoing to track this,” he said.
“The bottom line is the sale of FSC fish is illegal. Buying it is also illegal.”
What they’d like to see happen
Those gathered in Digby want to continue this peaceful demonstration and remain outside the DFO building.
“[Proper enforcement] would look like a lot less pressure on lobster stocks in the summer time,” said Theriault.
The group will demonstrate again at the same location September 15.
Depending on the response they receive, they may continue with more demonstrations as the week continues.