Nova Scotia

Maritime Link project will close stretch of lobster grounds for entire season

Cable laying and other offshore construction activity for the Maritime Link landfall at Cape Breton will close a three-kilometre long and 600-metre wide section of ocean bottom to lobster fishing for the entire 2017 lobster season.

Lobster fishermen could be paid for losses

Negotiations are underway to compensate fishermen from three ports in the area: Point Aconi, Big Bras d'Or and Alder Point. (Francis MacDonald)

Cable laying and other offshore construction activity for the Maritime Link landfall at Cape Breton will close a three-kilometre long and 600-metre wide swath of ocean bottom to lobster fishing for the entire 2017 lobster season.

Negotiations are underway to compensate fishermen from ports in Point Aconi, Big Bras d'Or and Alder Point.

"We're trying to work with them because we're going to be laying the cable basically through their ... lobster-harvesting zone next summer," said Rene Gallant of NSP Maritime Link Inc. in a December update on the project.

Unclear what compensation will be

"It'll be some disruption to them and there's some reasonable compensation we want to pay for them," Gallant said.

NSP Maritime Link is a subsidiary of Halifax-based Emera Inc. and an affiliate of Nova Scotia Power Inc., whose customers are paying for the $1.55-billion project.

Ray Larkin, a lawyer representing the fishermen, said in an email that it's premature to estimate the amount of compensation for lost landings and "any adverse environmental effects on lobster harvesting during the 2017 construction and during the eventual operation of the Maritime Link."

Fishermen concerns

Larkin said in addition to the 2017 no-traps area, a safety zone about twice that size will be in place for four days while one of the cables is floated and pulled through boreholes constructed in 2016.

"Exclusion from the safety zone will be very costly to fishermen and can give rise to tensions on the water if fishermen move their traps out of the safety zone into nearby areas," he said. 

"There would a domino effect which will impact on most of the approximately 75 lobster fishermen from the three ports."

Larkin said he is seeking provisions to monitor any potential long-term impacts of the operation of the cables.

Minimal impact expected

In a briefing to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, Gallant predicted minimal impact saying the company will bury the cables in a trench.

"We're pretty confident the lobsters will have no idea the cable's there with two metres of depth, but we'll see if they refuse, for example, to cross the cable path," Gallant said.

NSP Maritime Link compensated fishermen this year for the construction of two boreholes from the shore at Point Aconi to exit points approximately one kilometre from shore.

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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