Elver fishery closure ‘unfairly’ punishes Wolastoqiyik: chiefs

A recent decision by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans is facing backlash from the Wolastoqey Nation of New Brunswick (WNNB).

DFO announced Tuesday that the elver fishery in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick would remain closed for another 45 days “due to conservation and safety concerns.”

“Fishery officers have been conducting extensive enforcement and monitoring activities, which has led to over 110 arrests along with the seizure of gear, nets and five vehicles,” reads a tweet from DFO.

“All elver harvesting remains prohibited and subject to enforcement action. Fishery officers will continue to monitor and disrupt unauthorized elver harvesting, purchase, sale and export, in partnership with other law enforcement agencies.”

The Six Chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation issued a statement Tuesday, saying they are “deeply disappointed” in the decision, which they say continues to “exclude Wolastoqey fishers from their communal commercial elver license, effectively ending the 2023 season.”

The chiefs said the department failed this spring to organize a fishery that provides authorized access to Wolastoqey fishers, failed to assemble the necessary data to manage the fishery and failed to enforce the chaos on our rivers that ensued.

They believe the department’s decision “unfairly punished the Wolastoqiyik.”

“The Wolastoqey Nation is prepared to assume a leadership role to correct shortcomings in the scientific knowledge of this species and the guardianship of the species’ health,” reads a statement from the chiefs.

“WNNB has asked and will continue to ask the minister and her staff to move to an
Indigenous-only elver fishery and work with us on co-management until there is enough data to determine whether a commercial fishery can be supported.”

Officials say they look forward to participating in a review of this year’s fishery.

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