A world of possibilities opened for the We’koqma’q First Nation after working with the Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board.
The first nation, located in Cape Breton at the foothills of Skye Mountain and near the Bras d’Or Lake, expanded it’s fishing capacity and income with the purchase of the 69-foot fishing vessel seven years ago.
Time for growth
Bobby Gould, the first nation’s fishery manager, says the first nation previously used a small, 49- foot retrofitted vessel for ground fishing, sticking close to its home harbor of Glace Bay. The capacity was restrictive. It needed to stick relatively close to shore for ground fishing due to its size. And, since it was used in part for the snow crab fishery, as well as some ground fish, it’s capability was limited.
There was opportunity to grow, though. The We’koqma’q chief and council identified the potential, then went to work to make it happen.
After working with the Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board, the first nation purchased the boat, The Voyageur, in 2016, and that’s when the prospects indeed increased.
The larger vessel, revamped from used, was now able to sail to deeper waters. Capacity increased to 1.5 million pounds of ground fish – species like pollack, red fish and haddock. After the catch, product is sold to Ka’le Bay Seafood.
For the community, the new vessel means increased income. All earnings go directly back to the community. Funds are then allocated for community projects as decided by the chief and council ofWe’koqma’q Fist Nation.
The new vessel also brought increased employment. The first vessel employed three – a captain and two deckhands. Now, four people are onboard, three of whom are from We’koqma’q. The expansion of staff and inclusion of community members is on target with the goals of the first nation, which holds the long-term goal of providing the necessary training and experience to allow community members to take over the vessels as captains and first mates.
Fishing begins in the spring and extends through the summer and into the fall. Gould explains that a typical fishing trip sees the vessel at sea for five to seven days, often travelling to the Grand Banks, then back to shore for a few days before venturing out again.
We’koqma’q Fisheries division has seen steady growth in the fishing industry over the last several years, with approximately 25 community members now working in the commercial fishery.
Learn more about We’koqma’q here.