Nova Scotia

Lobster fisherman blasts 'piece of junk' turbine as company defends mid-season work

Cape Sharp Tidal is defending its right to work on a tidal turbine during lobster season in the Minas Passage amid concerns from a Nova Scotia fisherman who says he's had to move his lobster traps twice to accommodate testing on the massive structure.

Cape Sharp Tidal says it never asked fisherman Mark Taylor to move his lobster traps

Lobster fisherman Mark Taylor on his lobster boat in the Minas Passage. (Robert Vaughn)

Cape Sharp Tidal is defending its right to work on a tidal turbine during lobster season in the Minas Passage amid concerns from a Nova Scotia fisherman who says he has to move his traps to accommodate testing on the massive structure.

Mark Taylor, a local lobster fisherman, said he moved his traps about 13 kilometres west when the five-storey turbine was first lowered into place near Parrsboro, N.S., last November. 

Now Taylor said he's preparing to do the same as Cape Sharp Tidal attempts to remove a line tangled around the turbine on the seabed before moving it to another location, potentially in the Advocate area, for five days of testing.

"They say they are going to do tests down there, so we had to move our traps out of there," he said.

A line tangled around the Cape Sharp Tidal turbine near Parrsboro, N.S., has delayed testing and scheduled upgrades. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Taylor said his lobster traps are much heavier than traditional traps and difficult to move. Each one weighs 325 pounds so they can withstand the currents brought on by the rise and fall of the world's highest tides.

Adding to the challenge is fishing in an unfamiliar area, he said.

"It's going to cost us a lot this summer because now we can't fish in our traditional spots," said Taylor. "I've been fishing for 35 years in that one spot so I know the place."

Mooring line delays removal

Stacey Pineau, a spokesperson for Cape Sharp Tidal, said every effort is made to avoid working during the lobster season where possible. In this case, she said, it's necessary to do the work now.

The 1,000-tonne turbine was supposed to be removed in April for testing and upgrades, but the work came to a halt when a suspected mooring line was discovered coiled around it.

A remote-operated vehicle deployed to take a closer look stopped work earlier this week when the tidal window closed, said Pineau. Work is expected to resume when the window reopens June 4. 

"We do have the right to be on the water and obtain all necessary approvals and permits for our operations" Pineau said in an email to CBC.

"But we also try to conduct all of our operations in a way that is sensitive to others who also use the area."

Fishermen regularly consulted

Pineau added she has "been in regular contact" with Taylor and other fishermen in the area to provide updates on any planned work. 

Cape Sharp Tidal has not asked for any traps to be moved, she said.

"If Mark [Taylor] has also chosen to move any gear he might have in that area that is his choice and not a request we have made," wrote Pineau. 

"We have not finalized a location for the five days of testing as yet because we are looking very carefully at factors, including active fishing seasons and how much certain areas are fished, along with other technical considerations we have related to water depth and current."

Taylor said since the tidal turbine project began, he has lost about 80 traps. He said Cape Sharp Tidal paid for the damage caused by the extra ship traffic in the area running over gear.

'It's a conflict'

But with fewer traps to work with, Taylor said he's catching fewer lobster. The season ends at the end of July.

"We need those low-running tides to get better fishing and of course they need those tides, too, to get that piece of junk off the bottom," said Taylor.

"It's a conflict for sure."

Pineau said once the line is removed from the turbine, the structure will be moved for performance testing. It will then be taken to Saint John for upgrades.

She said Cape Sharp Tidal continues to work in consultation with regulators to ensure it has the proper approvals and permits to do the tests on the turbine.

The turbine is a joint project between Emera Inc. and OpenHydro. 

with files from Paul Palmeter