Nova Scotia

Proposed marine protected areas concern Nova Scotia fishermen

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans wants to double the number of marine protected areas around province next year.

The Deparment of Fisheries and Oceans says there will be 'no major impact' to commercial fishing

A fishing boat heads out into the waters near Sambro, Nova Scotia (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans wants to double the number of marine protected areas around Nova Scotia next year.

DFO is holding a series of consultation meetings with the public to get feedback to the idea.

It identified 52 special areas within the 475,000-square-kilometre region along Nova Scotia's Atlantic coast and in the Bay of Fundy that are in the running for the designation including the Sambro Ledges, Port Joli and Eastern Shore islands. 

More protected areas

Marty King, an oceans biologist with DFO, said the government will choose at least two areas to protect by next spring. 

The waters off of Sambro, called the Sambro Ledges, are one of the potential areas to be protected (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC )

That would bring the number of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Maritimes from two to four. 

The Gully, near Sable Island, was protected under law in May 2004. New Brunswick's Musquash Estuary, located 20 kilometres southwest of Saint John, was designated in December 2006. 

Restrictions

King said the designation is meant to protect the biodiversity of the fish and plant life in the area, but doesn't always mean fishing will be restricted.  

"Certain activities may be restricted in those areas," said King. "But they don't always mean no activities. There are certain types of fishing — for example, traditional, fixed-gear type fishing such as lobster — usually is allowed to continue in at least part of a marine protected area."

The move is part of the Trudeau government's push to protect 10 per cent of Canadian waters by 2020

"This is all linked with the International Convention on Biological Diversity and commitments that Canada and a lot of other countries have made," said King. 

Fishermen worried

But the proposed protections have fishermen worried.

"They feel like they're under siege sometimes," said Peter Connors, president of the Eastern Shore Fishermen Protective Association.  "I'm quite concerned." 

Some fishermen told CBC News that restrictions to the fishery would be a "disaster" for the industry.

"There's fear of exclusion from the fish," said Connors. "I think there's a certain amount of evidence that that will take place." 

'A lot of uncertainty'

King said DFO has met at least 75 times with fishermen to discuss the proposed areas, and he recognizes their concerns.

"There's a lot of uncertainty, and a lot of questions that need to be answered," said King, pointing to the extensive public consultation that will take place. 

King said he hopes the information sessions diminish fishermen's concerns. 

"This is not something that is going to have a major impact on commercial fisheries," he said. 

About the Author

Stephanie vanKampen

Videojournalist

Stephanie vanKampen is a videojournalist with the CBC News in Prince Edward Island. Send story ideas to stephanie.vankampen @cbc.ca