Nfld. & Labrador·Updated

Fishermen block Placentia lift bridge after waiting overnight to unload crab

A skipper who waited four hours to offload crab because the Placentia lift bridge was down has blocked vehicular traffic in protest.

Brian Barry and crew left protest at troublesome lift bridge Thursday afternoon

Brian Barry and his crew block traffic on the Placentia lift bridge in protest. (Submitted by Lisa McGrath)

A skipper who waited overnight to offload crab because the Placentia lift bridge was down blocked vehicular traffic in protest Thursday morning. 

Brian Barry and his two crew members stopped dozens of vehicles from crossing the $50-million Sir Ambrose Shea Lift Bridge at around 10 a.m. 

Barry left in his boat to go crab fishing at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and returned with a load of crab at 9 p.m., but wasn't allowed back into port, he said.

He said he was told officials wouldn't lift the bridge in fear that it would stick and not go back down. 

"We had to wait until 1 o'clock this morning to get back in, when the tide dropped enough," he said in an interview from the protest.

"I had to drop all my antennas off the boat to get in then, at 1 o'clock in the morning, in the dark, which is definitely not safe with the tide that's here. It's unacceptable."

Unfair to fisherman, Skipper says

He wasn't able to offload the crab until Thursday morning, he said.

Last week, a broken cable reel prevented the Placentia lift bridge from opening, leaving some fishing vessels stuck in the harbour during crab season.

Four days ago, the Department of Transportation and Works came up with a temporary fix while waiting for a replacement reel.

The Placentia Lift Bridge has been plaguing fishermen for the last several months, Skipper Brian Barry says. (Submitted by Vanessa Mooney)

It said the bridge would be available for lifts between 5 - 9 a.m. and 2 - 6 p.m. 

Barry returned after that deadline set by the department. 

"Everybody driving back and forth across this bridge without a care in the world, as long as it's down, everyone is happy."

Barry said he pays taxes and his wharf fees to sell his crab and tie up his boat.

But he admits he wasn't getting a lot of support at the protest site. 

"A lot of people are saying they have appointments to go to and I said, 'Yeah, so do I,'" he said.

"And that's the point."

Since he waited four hours to get back to port, he wants to stop traffic for the same amount of time.

RCMP officers arrived and allowed the fishermen to stay to protest but opened up one lane to traffic. 

The men left the protest in the afternoon.

After receiving a request from the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union, the department agreed to modify the new marine traffic lift schedule to be during full daylight hours, from 5 a.m,. to 9 p.m. 

About the Author

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.