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In Listuguj:
A 100% Aboriginal Crew
From Listuguj, Captains Buddy Vicaire and Rodney Burnaby. Captains from the Listuguj community: Buddy Vicaire, shrimp captain (left); and Rodney Burnaby, snow crab captain (right).

C. Metallic

Last spring saw a first in the Aboriginal community of Listuguj. Under the leadership of Captain Rodney Burnaby, an entirely Listugujawaq crew started fishing snow crab in Area 12 on board the Ugjit Sma'gnisg, a multifunctional 65-foot vessel. This first is the fruit of multiple efforts on the part of the community and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Here is a look back at the various steps that led to this achievement. Since 1999, following a Supreme Court of Canada ruling on fishing rights (the Marshall decision), Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been promoting Mi'kmaq and Maliseet access to commercial fisheries to strengthen these communities' economic self-reliance. The decision applies to First Nations that signed the Treaty of 1760–1761, namely, 34 First Nations from eastern Canada, including four from the Gaspé Peninsula.

As per the decision and in keeping with Fisheries and Oceans Canada's mandate, the Department sets fishing rights enforcement provisions: the entry of First Nations into the commercial fishery must not be done to the detriment of other users of the resource, but instead through retirement and re-issuance of existing licences, to avoid increasing the overall fishing effort.

Following negotiations, fishing agreements were reached with First Nations. In addition, several programs enabled the Department to re-issue licences and reassign vessels and fishing gear belonging to commercial fishers who wanted to voluntarily retire their licences.

The Listuguj community therefore received shrimp, crab and lobster quotas and the vessels and fishing gear required to catch these species. Initially, the community had neither the qualified staff nor the midshore commercial fishing experience to catch its quota. It therefore had to occasionally rent boats and call on non-Aboriginal professionals to fish on board its vessels. The fact that the community is quite far from the main fishing harbours and is Anglophone, whereas the majority of midshore fishers in the Gaspé Peninsula are Francophone, also complicated matters.

Fishing season after fishing season, several members of the Listuguj community persevered and went back aboard vessels owned by Gaspé Peninsula fishers. They also participated in mentoring programs and classroom training; several even took their Class IV Captain course. Finally, the Fisheries sector of Listuguj decided to place one community vessel under the responsibility of Captain Burnaby.

The first crab fishing trip was a huge success for the young captain, his crew and the entire community. The initiative will continue during the shrimp fishery on board the same vessel with Buddy Vicaire, another Listuguj captain who has over 10 years' experience on board community vessels.

For the Department, which has worked with this First Nation since the implementation of the Marshall decision, this is a major step in the development of fisheries in the Gaspé Peninsula.

Sylvio Coulombe
Gaspé–Lower St. Lawrence Area
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