Wolastoqey chiefs call on minister to reopen fishery

The Wolastoqey Nation of New Brunswick is calling on Canada’s fisheries minister, Joyce Murray, to reopen this year’s elver fishery for Wolastoqey fishers.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans closed the fishery in April due to conservation and safety concerns, which meant Wolastoqey fishers caught less than one-third of their 750-kilogram quota.

That’s significantly less than the 1,200-kilogram quota given to non-Indigenous commercial fishers.

“It was insulting to hear the Minister for DFO … tell us that ‘nobody likes to have things taken away’ in the context of lucrative commercial licenses she issues to non-Indigenous fishers,” said Chief Gabriel Atwin of Bilijk (Kingsclear First Nation).

“Our people have a long history of having things taken away by the government.”

The chiefs say if DFO does not reopen the fishery, the department must find other ways of compensating Wolastoqey fishers, noting that Canada is obligated to uphold treaty rights in this matter.

“We fully appreciate the careful balance between economics and conservation with respect to resources from our territory,” said Chief Tim Paul of Wotstak (Woodstock First Nation).

“If the fisheries minister is concerned about conservation, the first step should be to halt commercial fishing, not to punish our community members.”

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