The company behind the Maritime Link has agreed to compensation for a group of 60 Cape Breton lobster and crab fishermen affected by the project this season.

Work began last month on installing one of two 170-kilometre cables that will eventually cross the ocean floor between Cape Ray, N.L., and Point Aconi, N.S. 

At landfall in Cape Breton, cable laying and other offshore construction activity will close a three-kilometre-long and 600-metre-wide swath of ocean bottom to lobster fishing for the entire 2017 lobster season.

"Emera needs a safety installation zone that remains clear of all fishing gear and that's particularly important during the summer cable landing," said Jeff Myrick, senior communications manager with Emera Newfoundland and Labrador, a subsidiary of Halifax-based Emera Inc.

Terms of the compensation deal reached with the fishermen are not being released, he said.

Deal will 'fairly compensate'

"They are designed to fairly compensate local harvesters that have been temporarily impacted by the cable safety zone and the agreement also establishes communication protocols to ensure the continued flow of information directly to the harvesters," said Myrick.

Cable Reel Maritime Link

A reel of cable arrived in St. John's, N.L., last month, ready for installation on the ocean floor. (Submitted by Emera NL)

"That includes weekly updates on cable installation activity, ongoing engagement with the fisheries liaison committees that we established several years ago, notices to mariners and also launching of buoys to mark the safety zone area."

Lobster season in the area begins May 15 and ends on July 15.

Fishermen's union pleased

Kevin Squires, president of Local 6 of the Maritime Fishermen's Union, said he was pleased to hear a deal has been reached. 

Kevin Squires

Kevin Squires, president of Local 6 of the Maritime Fishermen's Union, says he's happy to hear lobster fishermen will receive compensation. (Kevin Squires)

"Locally people are concerned that they're being displaced from their traditional fishing grounds," said Squires, who fishes out of Big Bras d'Or. He said he is not affected by the compensation deal.

"The lobster fishery in particular in this case is a very brief one," he continued. 

"People depend very heavily on it. We don't have a lot of other fishery resources and people are being pushed out of an area that they typically have been depending on for a number of years."

'Only reasonable' to expect compensation

Squires said he believes compensation deals should be included in other major developments.

"When a new piece of development, whether it's a cable or oil drilling or whatever comes in and changes the environment in which people have been operating in, I think it's only reasonable that the new player monitors what changes their work might have brought to bear."‚Äč

Squires added that it's important for Emera to monitor any future impact from the Maritime Link on the fishery.

Myrick said a federal and provincial environmental review did not show any "significant adverse environmental effects with the implementation of the proposed design features, mitigation features and monitoring follow-up programs." 

"We're confident that at the end of this installation process [fishermen] can resume," he said.

Myrick said the first cable should come through on the Point Aconi side in the next week or so.

The Maritime Link project is expected to be completed sometime in December. When finished, it will be the longest subsea electricity cable in North America.