li-harp-ccg-620

A member of the Maritime Fishermen's Union says he's heard DFO plans to replace its undercover charter vessel with "two humongous and very conspicuous" Coast Guard vessels. (CCG)

Fishermen of the Miramichi Bay are fighting to keep their so-called ghost boat.

Since 2003, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has contracted a local fisherman, a deckhand and a fisheries officer to monitor the inshore waters of the bay in an unmarked fishing vessel.

The undercover charter vessel has cracked down on poaching and helped a number of boats in distress.

Now DFO budget cuts mean the responsibility could be handed to the Canadian Coast Guard, said Michel Richard, an area representative with the Maritime Fishermen's Union.

"What we've been hearing is DFO plans to pull the plug completely without any consultation to be replaced by two humongous and very conspicuous Coast Guard vessels which would be time shared between us, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia," Richard said.

"This is a critical issue and a special committee of fishermen from … the Miramichi and Escuminac area [and the union] have met with [member of Parliament] Tilly O'Neill-Gordon to make a message very clear … that we need to reactivate this program."

Robert Martin is harbour master of the Escuminac Wharf, where the ghost boat docks. He says the loss of the program would put fishermen at risk.

"That boat is always there. If something happens to the fisherman he's always available to go pick them up," said Martin.

"[It] saved a couple lives a couple years ago where people nearly drowned."

The fishermen's concerns have been forwarded to to Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, who is currently reviewing the decision.