Fishermen in Cape Breton say shipping coal by barge to big ships in Morien Bay would pollute the environment and destroy their livelihoods.

David Amadio and about 80 others attended a meeting last night to hear the latest about the proposed Donkin coal mine.

The 45-year-old has fished his whole life, just like his father. But with Donkin on the horizon, he worries about this future.

"It's me that's going to be affected. Me and my family," Amadio said. "It pisses me off to no end that you are going to come in here and take away a whole way of life."

Xstrata wants to produce 3.6-million tonnes of coal a year from two seams at Donkin. The plan is to wash the coal on site, then barge it to bulk carriers waiting offshore.

Bernie MacDonald, with the Port Morien and False Bay Fishermen's Association, said that threatens the lobster fishery.

"We want the coal mine, but we want [the coal] shipped by rail. It's as simple as that. I mean, we've got an industry that has kept this community going for 200 years and we want it around for another 200 years," he said.

'The economics clearly demonstrate that marine transportation is the way forward' — Val Istomin, project manager

But shipping by rail to Sydney harbour would cost nearly $50 million more, counters project manager Val Istomin.

"The economics clearly demonstrate that marine transportation is the way forward," Istomin said.

Xstrata hopes to start producing coal by 2014. It will submit its environmental impact statement in the next few days.

The fishermen say they'll fight Xstrata's plan.

Local politicians, including the MLA and mayor, promise to try to make rail cheaper for Xstrata.