The Current

Bay of Fundy tidal turbines on hold over environmental concerns

At the end point of Nova Scotia's Bay of Fundy, in the Minas Basin, the tides can rise as high as 15 metres. Those hoping to harness that energy want to put giant turbines on the seabed but one very vocal lobster fisherman is already delaying the plan.
Turbines in the Bay of Fundy would put delicate ecosystem at risk, say fishermen and scientists. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

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Plans for the installation of a tidal turbine on the bottom of the ocean floor in the Bay of Fundy, N.S., have been put on hold. The company, Cape Sharp Tidal and the provincial government have postponed the  project.

Fishermen and scientists are concerned about the impact the turbines could have on an important and diverse marine ecosytem.

Lobster fisherman Colin Sproul of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association is against installing the tidal turbines. He tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti why stopping this project is important to him.

"The reason for our involvement in this is to preserve our way of life and our culture. The bay has sustained us for 400 years. My family has five generations of involvement in this industry and we will not see it washed it away by corporate efficiency and greed."

Sproul says he wants to pass on his legacy to his son and nephews.

Graham Daborn has been studying tidal energy for four decades. He's a partner with the Acadia Tidal Energy Institute and thinks the installation of the tidal turbines should go ahead.

"There is a strong conviction from the experience that's building with these turbines that they are in fact able to generate power successfully and that they will do so with a relatively modest impact upon important resources like fish," Daborn tells Anna Maria Tremonti.

Marine biologist Trevor Avery agrees with Sproul that the baseline information is inadequate in order to determine any effects in the area but isn't opposed to testing.

"I'd support testing of turbines if you had proper baseline information and proper protocols in place for monitoring ... You can't simply throw one of these things in there as a number of news articles say and see what happens," says Avery.

The tidal turbines are five storeys tall and weigh 300 tonnes. Together they could generate enough hydro power for about 1,000 homes.

Cape Sharp Tidal hopes to have several turbines on the site in the Bay of Fundy by 2019.

The Current requested an interview with a representative from Cape Sharp Tidal — the European Canadian business partnership behind this project  —  but no one was available.

* CORRECTION: Please note there was an error in our original broadcast. The company involved in the tidal turbines project is Cape Sharp Tidal. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Julian Uzielli and Halifax network producer Mary Lynk.