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‘Building towards abundance’: How Indigenous-owned Clearwater Seafoods is reshaping Canada’s seafood industry – Global Seafood Alliance

3 June 2024

The seafood sector and Indigenous communities in Canada’s Maritimes have long been overshadowed by a cycle of troubling news.

For decades, disputes have erupted over the interpretation of hunting and fishing rights promised in the Peace and Friendship Treaties signed in the 1700s between the British and the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik and Peskotomuhkati nations. Although the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed these treaty rights in 1999 – the landmark Marshall case recognized the rights of Indigenous groups in Eastern Canada to hunt and fish for a “moderate livelihood” – differing interpretations of this ruling continue to spark conflict in the waters.

One of the worst conflicts occurred in 2020, when the Sipekne’katik First Nation issued their own lobster licenses to trap and sell their catch outside the federally regulated season. Some non-Indigenous inshore fishing interests reacted badly to this move, leading to protests, confrontations on the water and even acts of vandalism, arson and violence against Mi’kmaq fishers.

Since December 2022, federal conservation officers have reportedly seized more than 7,000 lobster traps as other Mi’kmaq bands have launched their own moderate livelihood ventures, pursuing charges against Indigenous fishers. Many Indigenous fishers are contesting the charges, asserting their constitutionally protected rights to catch and sell fish when and where they want.

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