Online edition of Shunpiking
Thursday, Jan 01, 2004
From our archives

Native and non-native fishers unite against oil and gas monopolies

By Tony Seed

Shunpiking, Atlantic Canada Today, July, 2000, Vol. 5, No. 35


PICTOU -- Native and non-native fishermen sailed by the Pictou Lobster Carnival in Pictou Harbour on July 8 in a display of peaceful unity to protest oil and gas exploitation in fishing grounds off the western coast of Cape Breton.

Their action comes as the media is once again harmfully speculating on whether or not Yarmouth fishermen can be recruited to join the Alliance Party.

By promoting that Native and non-Native inshore fishernmen have conflicting interests, this false "news" is orchestrated to fuel the flames of the "divide and rule" policy of the state.

For their part, fishermen in the Northumberland Strait and western Cape Breton hope to raise public awareness and send a message that they will not tolerate action by government to allow historic fishing grounds be taken over by the petroleum industry.

"This Cabot Trail shoreline permit should have been revoked when the Atlantic Policy Congress of Mi’kmaq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy Chiefs passed a resolution opposing this permit last December. DFO’s (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) inaction on this issue violates the Marshall decision and Canada’s Oceans Act and will not be tolerated," said Chief Albert Denny of Pictou Landing Band.

Fishermen say that for over a year now their requests that DFO assume their legislated responsibility to protect marine habitat have fallen on deaf ears.

"We keep being told that DFO has deferred their legislated responsibility to the Canada/Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board through a Memorandum of Understanding. When did the protection of marine habitat get placed in the hands of the petroleum industry?" asked Percy Hayne of Merigomish, president of the Gulf ns Fleet Planning Board.

In March, the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council recommended to Dhaliwal that oil and gas activities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence from exploration to production phase be postponed until a complete assessment, made through a transparent process, is made on the potential impact of those activities on the marine life.

"It’s a disgrace that Dhaliwal and DFO have ignored this recommendation, in light of the sacrifices that inshore fishermen have made over the past decade to rebuild fish stocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence," said Greg Egilsson, president of the Gulf NS Herring Federation.

"DFO seems to think that the conservation recommendations start and stop with excessive regulation of the inshore fishery," he added.

Fishermen say that oil and gas exploration in fishing grounds will be a major issue in the upcoming federal election. "If the federal Liberals are serious about wanting to retain seats in the Maritimes, they better reconsider their position regarding oil and gas leases in our fishery," warned Leonard Le Blanc, president of Chéticamp and Area Inshore Fishermen’s Association.

The permit in question extends fifty miles from Port Hood to Cheticamp and twenty miles west into the Northumberland Strait. This area is a spawning, nursery, and migratory area for lobster, herring, snowcrab, mackerel, tuna, Atlantic salmon, whales, dolphins and recovering groundfish species, and one of the most productive multi-species inshore fisheries on the East Coast.