'Stop this right now': Cape Breton fisherman worried about seismic testing

Fishermen in Cape Breton are worried about the impact planned seismic testing at the Donkin mine will have on their lobster grounds and livelihoods.

DFO has approved 2 weeks of tests at the Donkin mine in Glace Bay

Herb Nash has been fishing out of Glace Bay harbour for about 50 years. (CBC)

Fishermen in Cape Breton are worried about the impact planned seismic testing at the Donkin mine will have on their lobster grounds and livelihoods.

Kameron Coal has been given the green light to blast sound waves out of an air gun in an attempt to survey an area it leases offshore of Glace Bay. The company operates the Donkin mine, which extends underneath where Herb Nash fishes.

"We're asking them to stop this right now, and put an end to it and not let it happen," Nash told CBC's Maritime Noon.

He'll bring his concerns to officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) during meetings scheduled for Monday and Tuesday nights.

He wants to know why DFO didn't consult with fishermen about the tests, which will be conducted over a two-week period.

Impact on lobster, snow crab

Nash said he believes similar tests in the area in the past killed lobster and snow crab eggs.

Given the recent rash of right whale deaths, he wonders why Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc is allowing the tests to go ahead. 

"The rest of the world is watching us, and he's trying to protect them and other species … and at the same time that the whales are going to be in our areas, is when they want to do the seismic testing ... it's just so far off the wall it's unreal," said Nash.

People in Cape Breton concerned about their fishing grounds say they'll be at meetings planned for Monday and Tuesday this week. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

In a statement to CBC News, DFO said it didn't need approval under the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act because the "survey is considered small-scale and of a short duration."

"No impacts to fisheries are expected because of the relatively low sound levels that will be generated and the limited spatial extent and short-term nature of the survey," said DFO.

Future of mine uncertain

Nash said he's not opposed to mining, and knows how important it is for the economy of Cape Breton, but he questions the future of the Donkin Mine, which recently laid off 49 people.

"It's not something that's going to be here for the next 50 years," said Nash. "By the sounds of things it's in jeopardy … and I know fishing will be here for years to come if it ain't destroyed."

The Donkin mine laid off 49 employees last week. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Kameron Coal declined comment, but said in an email that it's engaging with its stakeholders on the issue.

Community meetings about the seismic testing are being held Monday at 7 p.m. at the Albert Bridge fire hall, and Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Donkin fire hall.

With files from CBC's Maritime Noon