Nova Scotia

N.S. lobster fishermen tie up boats to protest DFO minister

More than a hundred lobster fishermen from Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore tied up their boats Wednesday to protest an appearance by federal Fisheries Minster Jonathan Wilkinson at a local legion.

At issue is proposed 2,000-square-kilometre marine protected area

More than 100 lobster fishermen opted to miss a day on the water in order to protest the fisheries minister's appearance at the East Ship Harbour legion. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

More than a hundred lobster fishermen from Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore tied up their boats Wednesday to protest an appearance by federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson at a local legion.

The protest was over Eastern Shore Islands, a 2,000-square-kilometre proposed marine protected area (MPA). 

Wilkinson told the East Ship Harbour legion hall packed with fishermen that the local lobster fishery — which accounts for 97 per cent of the landings inside the proposed MPA —  would not be affected if the area is designated.

The promise that there will not be "no-take zones" for lobster fishing is an assurance made many times by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

"There is no rush. We will take time whatever it takes. And there is no deadline by which we make this determination," Wilkinson told the crowd.

Minister Jonathan Wilkinson (right) says the marine protected area along the Eastern Shore will not affect the lobster fishery. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Without exception, protesting fishermen told CBC News they do not trust the federal government's assurances the lobster fishery will not be impacted.

"I don't believe the government. Do you? They lie to us, lots of times," lobster fisherman Barry Beaver, of Murphys Cove said.

The hastily organized protest in the middle of a two-month lobster season likely cost each fisherman thousands of dollars in lost catch.

A single RCMP officer was on hand and Wilkinson was in no danger at any time.

He was even applauded as the meeting ended, after promising to return after lobster season ends to continue consultations.

The ugly moment

But there was an ugly moment beforehand.

On their way into the meeting, several Department of Fisheries and Oceans staff were jeered and threatened.

There were shouts of "We don't want no MPA. Go back to Halifax," and one person yelled, "If you're gonna take our lives, you better be willing to lose yours."

In addition to promising not to impact the lobster fishery, Wilkinson also proposed an undefined "community management" of the MPA that would give fishermen more say over management of the protected zone.

Eastern Shore Islands is the first large MPA candidate in Canada with an inshore fishery. The boundary extends just 25 kilometres from the coast.

Significant eel grass and kelp beds and a cod nursery are unique ecological features within the area — a pristine Nova Scotia archipelago of hundreds of islands that stretches from Clam Harbour, near Jeddore Harbour, to Barren Island, near Liscomb Point.

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About the Author

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.

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