Nova Scotia

Halifax harbour: From sewer to fishermen's friend

Once known as an open sewer, Halifax harbour is now providing some intrepid fishermen with their meals.
Fish from the Halifax harbour are ending up on dinner plates. ((CBC))
Once known as an open sewer, Halifax harbour is now providing some intrepid fishermen with their meals.

Fishing poles are becoming a common sight along the waterfront.

Matthew Lantz likes to fish from a dock in downtown Halifax two or three times a week.

"I just think if you're a fisherman, you should be down on these docks. There's plenty of fish to catch and they get pretty big. I've been catching pollock up to two pounds. There's a lot of meat on those," he told CBC News.

Lantz said he usually catches pollock, but he's been getting some mackerel lately. If the fish is big enough, he takes it home, fries it and eats it.

The idea of eating fish from the harbour doesn't sit well with some passersby.

"It's like eating fish that's been raised in a toilet, as far as I'm concerned," said Cheryl Fraser.

Matthew Lantz goes fishing in the harbour two or three times a week. ((CBC))

The harbour was once notorious for its raw sewage and "floatables."

But James Campbell, spokesman for Halifax Water, said the water is clean thanks to the three sewage treatment plants in Halifax, Dartmouth and Herring Cove.

"Certainly here in Halifax we had fantastic results and the clarity of the water is amazing compared to what it used to be," he said.

Last month, the $333-million Harbour Solutions project was declared successfully completed.

Regional council was told that the water in the inner, middle and outer harbour is so clean that it meets federal guidelines for shellfish harvesting.

The all-clear came more than a year after the Halifax treatment plant failed, sending raw sewage flowing into the harbour once more. It cost $11 million to bring the plant back online.

Lantz said he started fishing about a month ago and has not been sick.

"We don't worry about the harbour. [Fish] don't live here, they just come in here. They're always pretty good tasting," he said.

The Halifax Regional Municipality regularly tests the quality of the water but not the fish.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency doesn't test fish that are harvested recreationally.

In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson said recreational harvesters are urged to "exercise due diligence and caution" before eating fish caught in urban waters like Halifax harbour.

The spokesperson said the amount of contamination in an individual fish depends on a number of factors, such as its species, weight and age.

The federal agency still considers the harbour a prohibited area for harvesting bivalve shellfish — clams, mussels and oysters — despite what council was told.