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Jamie Bissonette Lewey: Maine must keep promise to tribes

Filed Under: Opinion
More on: fishing, jamie bissonette lewey, maine, passamaquoddy

Jamie Bissonette Lewey, the chairman of the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission, discusses a fishing dispute:
The Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act, a federal law that returned land to the tribes, lays out the legal basis for the Maine Implementing Act, which defines the relationship between the state and tribes. Without the settlement act, the implementing act does not exist.

The settlement act lists the rights and resources the tribes deliberately transferred. Saltwater fishing is not listed. It is a “reserved right.” By definition, the state of Maine has no jurisdiction over reserved rights.

Last year’s LD 451 — which limited the Passamaquoddy Tribe to issuing 200 elver licenses — and this year’s LD 1625 — which would require state fishery officials to approve each individual tribal elver license in writing — are in conflict with the settlement act and the implementing act. The Passamaquoddy rightfully refused to comply with LD 451.

The Passamaquoddy wisdom teachings embrace conservation. Conservation and protection of the eel are central to their plan.

Last year, the state limited gear, not catch. In comparison, the tribe offered access to any Passamaquoddy who wanted to fish but managed the take through a total allowable catch of 3,600 pounds — less than the recorded take of the top 50 state harvesters. Amid claims that the Passamaquoddy were ruining the fishery, the tribe predicted reaching this total allowable catch would be difficult. The tribe’s take was 1,650 pounds.

Under pressure from federal and multi-state agencies, the Department of Marine Resources is struggling to retain a fishery that is devoid of conservation benchmarks. Over the past year, the department did not engage its harvesters in the necessary conversation about protection of the eel. Instead, it implemented a complex quota system and turned its attention to the “Passamaquoddy problem.”

Get the Story:
Jamie Bissonette Lewey: Maine must keep promises to tribes, protect elvers before they disappear (The Bangor Daily News 2/3)

Another Opinion:
Douglas Rooks: Maine eel fight highlights past tribal relations (The Portsmouth Herald 2/2)

Related Stories:
Passamaquoddy Tribe makes progress on state fishing talks (1/30)
Charges dismissed against trio of Passamaquoddy fishermen (8/13)
Passamaquoddy Tribe continues to exercising fishing rights (04/30)
Letter: State mistreats fishermen from Passamaquoddy Tribe (04/17)
Passamaquoddy leaders cite threat from governor on fishing (04/02)

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