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Federal government declines comment on First Nations elver quota court ruling

HALIFAX — The federal Fisheries Department says it is reviewing last week’s court ruling that affirms the government’s transfer of part of the lucrative Maritime elver fishery quota to First Nations fishers in 2022.

The department says it won’t comment in detail because of the possibility of an appeal in the case, launched in Federal Court by three commercial licence holders in the elver fishery.

In her Aug. 29 ruling, Justice Elizabeth Walker said the quota transfer was “fair and reasonable” given the broad discretion the fisheries minister has to manage Canadian fisheries.

Former federal fisheries minister Joyce Murray cut the commercial elver quota by about 14 per cent to give Indigenous fishers access to the fishery in recognition of a treaty right.

Commercial fishers decried the decision because they weren’t compensated, questioning whether Ottawa was moving away from the willing buyer, willing seller model.

The department says its “preferred” approach remains willing buyer, willing seller, but it did not elaborate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 5, 2023.

The Canadian Press