Crees may soon be asked to get a license to fish in coastal areas.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been signalling that Cree communities may have to get communal fishing licenses as part of a new aboriginal fisheries policy. The first Cree told to get a license is George Lameboy, a commercial and sports outfitter in Chisasibi.

“They’re sort of letting the rumour spread that eventually Crees will have to have a communal license, with a warden and fishing quotas,” says Rene Dion, a biologist with the Cree Regional Authority. “It’s totally against the spirit of community fishing and the right to go fishing whenever you want.”

Dion said federal officials may start demanding the licenses because the coastal waters of James Bay and Hudson Bay fall under federal jurisdiction.

“The only reason for the license is that it’s a different territory. But as far as the Crees are concerned, wherever they can go with their boat is their territory. It’s quite clear in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement that Crees can go out and harvest fish whenever they want.”

The CRA has asked fisheries officials to provide clarification about the new federal policy, but hasn’t received word back. “Right now it’s all vague,” Dion said. A fisheries spokeswoman was unable to provide details on the policy before we went to print.