Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Leaders Have Commenced Legal Action
June 30, 2010
The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs and the Wagmatcook and Waycobah First Nations have commenced legal proceedings to set aside a decision made by the Regional Director-General, Maritimes Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The proceedings are an application to the Federal Court of Canada for judicial review of the decision to authorize a recreational hook and release Atlantic salmon angling fishery in the Middle River and the Baddeck River, Victoria County, Cape Breton, during the period September 1 to October 31, 2010.
The Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia believe that DFO’s decision is not consistent with the needs of salmon conservation in those two rivers. The number of Atlantic salmon returning to the Middle River is only 29.3 per cent of the Conservation Spawner Requirement (“CSR”) and the number returning to the Baddeck River is only 34% . The CSR is a measure originally adopted by the Canadian Atlantic Fisheries Scientific Advisory Committee (“CAFSAC”) as the level below which it would strongly advise that no fishing should occur. CAFSAC says irreversible damage might occur even at levels only slightly below the CSR.
The Mi’kmaq say in the legal proceedings that DFO is not following the priorities for resource allocation originally set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1990 in the Sparrow case. The SCC said the need to conserve the resource is the highest priority, followed by the constitutional right of Aboriginal people to harvest for their food, social and ceremonial needs. All other resource users, such as the sports fishers, are not entitled to access unless the first two priorities are met. For the Middle and Baddeck rivers, neither conservation nor the Mi’kmaq food needs are being met
The Mi’kmaq have relied upon the Atlantic salmon as a traditional part of their diet and economy from time immemorial. The Indian reserve lands of the Wagmatcook First Nation are on the banks of the Middle River and the Waycobah First Nation is close by. Both Mi’kmaq communities are close to the Baddeck River as well.
There is a major salmon sports fishery on the adjacent Margaree River, and also healthy salmon stocks in the North and North Aspey rivers in Eastern Cape Breton and in rivers along the Gulf Shore.