Review of the Forum on Mi’kmaq and Maliseet Fisheries in the Gaspé Peninsula and Lower St. Lawrence
A forum for First Nations on Mi’kmaq and Maliseet fisheries in the Gaspé Peninsula and Lower St. Lawrence was held in Rivière-du-Loup on January 19 and 20, 2017. About 20 individuals took part. The event, organized by the Mi’kmaq Maliseet Aboriginal Fisheries Management Association and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, provided an opportunity to review commercial fishing issues and Aboriginal programs through an open dialogue.
The First Nations provided an overview of their successes, challenges and future priorities for Aboriginal fisheries. Fisheries and Oceans Canada then reiterated its objectives and explained the various programs currently in effect. Four thematic workshops also encouraged discussions between First Nations and Department representatives.
From the outset of the Forum, Grand Chief Jacques Tremblay of the Maliseet de Viger First Nation emphasized the need to protect the environment and ensure the sustainability of the resource, as it is central to the economic development of the communities. The Grand Chief, welcoming the ongoing dialogue on these issues, also said that “interaction between stakeholders is very important.”
The meeting gave First Nations the opportunity to present highlights of their fisheries: target species, number of boats and training for captains and crew. The First Nations are very involved in the shellfish fishery. Some presented new markets for certain species, as well as local marketing efforts to be implemented, especially at the retail level. All stressed the fishery’s importance for job creation and economic development. One participant even said that revenue from the fishery accounted for up to 85% of the Nation’s revenue.
The workshops provided an opportunity to discuss essential issues, such as First Nations’ rights and responsibilities in the fisheries, co-management and consultations. Participants emphasized the importance of scheduling sufficient time and resources for consultations. They also discussed the parameters of co-management and highlighted the benefits of encouraging First Nations to become fully involved in management processes.
Participants in the 2017 Forum on Mi’kmaq and Maliseet fisheries in the Gaspé Peninsula and Lower St. Lawrence showed a strong desire to improve fisheries. They proposed options that could be viable for all First Nations.
Ricky Richard and Kevin Wilkins