'We'll block them,' fisherman says of Northern Pulp survey boat

Darryl Bowen, a fisherman from Caribou, N.S., says he will make sure his boat or another fishing vessel is placed in front of the survey vessel if it attempts to leave Pictou's harbour in northeastern Nova Scotia.

Pulp mill in Nova Scotia's Pictou County wants to pipe effluent directly into Northumberland Strait

In July, hundreds of boats from the Maritimes rallied against Northern Pulp's plan to put an effluent pipe into the Northumberland Strait. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

A group of Northumberland Strait fishermen say they will block any survey boats hired by the Northern Pulp mill from entering the strait to do work on a proposed new route for an effluent pipe.

Darryl Bowen, a fisherman from Caribou, N.S., said he will make sure his boat or another fishing vessel is placed in front of the survey vessel if it attempts to leave Pictou's harbour in northeastern Nova Scotia.

"If they try to get out, we're just going to keep getting in front of them so that they can't get by us," he said Monday, adding there were six or seven boats in the harbour mouth. The harbour mouth is about one kilometre wide. "They won't get by ... We'll block them."

He said the protest by fishermen from several ports starts today, but will continue as long as necessary to prevent the survey from taking place.

No survey boat in water, mill says

Bowen said the view of the fishermen is that it's safer to prevent the surveyors from entering the strait than having the vessel go out on open water and be confronted by hostile fishing boats, as occurred recently.

"The last time they got out there, we went up [to them] and it didn't take long for them to run back to shore," said Bowen, who fishes lobster, crab and scallops.

A spokesperson for Paper Excellence Canada, which owns the pulp mill, said no survey boat is in the water Monday. 

"There have been discussions over the past week between Northern Pulp, contract survey crew and fisher leadership," Kathy Cloutier said in an email. "The information survey crew members are seeking to obtain is data that may be of benefit to various interested parties. There is no survey boat currently in the water."

RCMP called to earlier confrontation

Though the Northern Pulp mill near Pictou provides key jobs for the town of about 3,000 residents, its pipeline plan has raised concerns about the impact on the lobster fishery, other seafood businesses and protected areas along the coast.

Under provincial legislation, the mill has until 2020 to replace its current waste-water treatment plant in Boat Harbour, and Premier Stephen McNeil has confirmed he is sticking with that deadline.

After years of pumping 70 million litres of treated waste daily into lagoons on the edge of the nearby Pictou Landing First Nation reserve, Northern Pulp wants to pipe it directly into the strait that separates Nova Scotia from P.E.I.

The lagoons contain nearly 50 years worth of toxic waste, which former Nova Scotia environment minister Iain Rankin has called one of the worst cases of environmental racism in Canada.

The mill's parent company, Paper Excellence of Richmond, B.C., has said the mill and its 300 employees will be out of work unless it can build a pipeline to the strait.

RCMP were called in October after fishermen confronted a boat thought to be doing survey work for Northern Pulp.

With files from CBC