The Angling Report is a monthly newsletter in which subscribers as well as staff writers discuss the good, bad, and ugly of various destinations worldwide. It is a very influential pulication for those who travel in terms of where they may or may not go and is essentially for angler by anglers.
In a nutshell, Gespg (the Mic Mac band in Gasp) sought to obtain access to the York, Dartmouth, and St. Jean Rivers over a year ago for the purpose of economic development and job creation for their community. They had a 5 year agreement which was signed with the Government of Quebec that covered fishing and hunting activities for members of their Community. The agreement was through Sept 30, 2007 (the article in the Angling Report listed the term as being thru Sept 2006- I presume that was either a typo or miscommunication). That agreement allowed Gespeg to net a certain number of salmon in each of the 3 rivers for Community purposes. It also gave a few fishing days at no charge to members of the Gespeg Community as well. Further, Gespeg, through this agreement, agreed to respect the fishing regulations such as fly fishing (when they fished for sport and individual consumption) as well as to conform to the regulations regarding fishing sectors, etc. Certainly there are more details in the agreement but that is the heart of the agreement relative to fishing, their, rights, and what the present situation is.
There have been discussions with the Government and Gespeg for more than a year with the intent to have a new agreement ready for 2008 that would have taken effect after the prior agreement ended. It is important to note that in Quebec (I suspect it is the same throughout Canada) First Nations dealings are between Governments; theirs as well as either the Provincial or Federal. That said, they have also met with the local Zec representatives along with the Government over the past year as well in order to find a reasonable and viable deal for their Community.
As of a week or so ago, they are no further along then they were when they started over a year ago, manily due to the opposition by the Zec to their plans and desire to pursue economic development and job creation through outfitting. They (Gespeg) made it clear late last summer that if they did not have an acceptable agreement by the start of the 2008 fishing season they would do whatever they had to in order to exercise their native rights. Without a fishing agreement in place, members of their Community are free to fish anywhere they want; that means they could have 5 people from their Community fishing alongside 2 people who had reserved a 2 rod sector on a river. They could do so with fly rods, spinning rods, nets, or whatever they choose. That is the conflict that was apparently alluded to in the article.
I believe the Government and the Zec were made aware of this possibility on a few occassions over the past year and so if there are confrontations or disruptions to fishing it should not be a suprise to them.
If Gespeg chooses to exercise their Native Fishing Rights in such a manner they will NOT affect the fishing of any local anglers or resident anglers on the York, Dartmouth, or lower St. Jean Rivers.
I want to ASSURE clients and prospective clients of Malbaie River Outfitters, and anyone else who is planning on fishing theses 3 rivers and is using an outfitter or guiding company that they will not be affected either; I was given this assurance last fall.
I would suspect that those who will likely be impacted from this will be the privileged people who fish at the Pavillion on the St. Jean River and the upper York River. It will be unfortunate if people's fishing experiences and trips are affected/ruined but that may be the price paid for resolving this conflict.
If I may say so editorially, these rivers are public (save the small portions privately owned with riparian rights) and not the property of any 1 organization. First Nations were in the Gaspe long before anyone who came from Europe to settle there and courts have upheld Native Rights time and time again. There is plenty of room on these rivers for the public as well as for a presence from a First Nations band looking to better their community through job creation and economic development. A great example of this is the First Nations Outfitting Operation on the Grand Cascapedia River whereby they have access to rods through their Native Rights, and they operate side by side with private camps and a society (similar to a zec).
In conlcusion, my intention for responding in this thread is to assure clients and prospective clients of Malbaie River Outfitters not to be concerned regarding their trips to the Gaspe. I have no intention of debating this issue; it is an issue that exists between Gespeg and the Government of Quebec. For everyone's sake I hope it is resolved without issue to anyone.