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Fireworks explode as boats loaded with traps head from the harbour in West Dover, N.S., Monday, Nov. 30, 2020.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Following an unusually long delay, the commercial lobster fishing season off the southwest coast of Nova Scotia finally launched early this morning.

A DFO spokesman confirmed the fishing boats left port at 4 a.m. to start the season.

The so-called Dumping Day was originally scheduled for Nov. 30, but continued high winds and rough seas forced fishers to stay on land.

Though this isn’t the first time the season has been delayed, Coldwater Lobster Association president Bernie Berry says the eight-day delay may be the longest the zone has ever experienced.

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan announced in a tweet Monday evening that conditions had been deemed safe enough for the season to launch.

While commercial fishers took to the waters, Indigenous fishers from a Mi’kmaq band in the province stayed on shore.

The lucrative lobster fishing area has been at the centre of an ongoing dispute over fishing rights since the Sipekne’katik First Nation started its self-regulated fishery in mid-September, citing a 1999 Supreme Court decision that affirmed the right of the Mi’kmaq to hunt and fish to earn a moderate livelihood.

Some commercial fishers took issue with the fishery, saying it had no right to harvest lobster outside the federally designated season.

The conflict led to months of tension, and now Indigenous fishers who in the past have fished under commercial licenses in the zone known as Lobster Fishing Area 34 won’t be taking part, says Chief Mike Sack.

“They’re not going at all. We squashed this season at LFA 34,” Sack said in an interview.

Sack said Sipekne’katik fishers weren’t able to equip themselves to harvest on a commercial scale after being “boxed out” of the industry following the tensions with commercial fishers.

“They couldn’t buy gear, they couldn’t sell lobster anywhere,” he said.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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