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Members of the Potlotek First Nation carry bait boxes as they prepare to head out into St. Peters Bay from the wharf in St. Peter’s, N.S., to participate in a self-regulated commercial lobster fishery on Oct. 1, 2020, which is Treaty Day.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

A Mi’kmaq First Nation in Cape Breton says federal fisheries officers seized 37 lobster traps that were set today by an Indigenous harvester.

The Potlotek First Nation, located about 75 kilometres south of Sydney, N.S., issued a news release indicating the community had authorized the traps as part of its livelihood fishery.

Indigenous fishers in Nova Scotia say a 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision affirming the Mi’kmaq treaty right to fish for a “moderate livelihood” lets them fish when and where they want. That decision was later clarified by the court, however, which said Ottawa could regulate the treaty right for conservation and other limited purposes.

Earlier this year, federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan had said if bands haven’t negotiated agreements with Ottawa and received federal licences for moderate livelihood fisheries, then the government would enforce regulations.

Chief Gerald Toney, fisheries lead for the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs, says in the release the harvester was operating under the community’s plan and was doing so within a federal commercial season.

The Fisheries Department wasn’t immediately available for comment today.

Chief Wilbert Marshall of Potlotek First Nation says the seizure is a failure of the federal government to uphold treaty rights and called the actions of fisheries officers “shameful and unlawful.”

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