Some of the fish harvesters who leave Sandyville each morning and turn east by Sharp Point into Connaigre Bay are upset that the provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture has approved two sites in the bay.
Ben Simms of Sandyville is a crab harvester in Connaigre Bay. He understands that the conditions attached to the site approval require the cages to be in water greater than 25 fathoms and less than 80 fathoms. “Yes, I have concerns about the location of these sites. It seems that 25 fathoms and shallower is intended to allow the lobster harvesters to continue without interruption and no greater than 80 will allow the crab harvesters to do the same. But my crab pots vary in the depth of water, sometimes they are in 50 fathoms, sometimes in 100 and anywhere in between. The location of the aquaculture cages are going to restrict where I can place my pots when I am fishing close to them.”
The owner of scallop, crab, and lobster licenses, Newman Short of Hermitage is also a harvester in Connaigre Bay, and he is very vocal in his objection to the sites which he thinks will be at Rattling Brook and Fish Cove.
“It’s going to interfere with my work,” said Mr. Short. “It’s going to interfere with everything. At the beginning of the lobster season, for example, we have our pots as far out as forty fathoms. And crab pots are not always outside of 80 fathoms; we have had crab pots in 25 and 30 fathoms. Also all the feces and food that falls to the bottom is going to ruin the grounds for us. They (the companies) say that it’s only under the cages, but these cages will take up twice the size of Sandyville harbour, and the (residue) still flows away with the tide. I don’t believe that fallowing a site for a year or more will clear up the bottom, not according to some of the reports I’ve seen on the internet about what has happened in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The companies say there is no proof that aquaculture affects lobster grounds; well, there is no proof that it doesn’t either.”
When this correspondent mentioned that the aquaculture sites didn’t seem to have affected the quantity of lobsters caught in other areas like Belleoram, Mr. Short was not convinced. “I don’t think we will catch as many close to those sites. According to the fishermen I’ve talked to, the lobsters are not near as plentiful around the sites.
Mr. Short was among a number of traditional harvesters who attended a meeting in Harbour Breton last week, and he agrees with the feelings of all harvesters at that meeting. “We are 100% against any aquaculture in that bay for a couple of years during which time we ask the companies to present proof that their industry does not negatively affect other species that we have always fished. Truthfully, the harvesters of Connaigre Bay don’t want aquaculture in that bay; we are all against it.”
Next week the Coaster will contact some of the fish harvesters in other parts of Fortune Bay where aquaculture has been in operation for a number of years. Mr. Short though will remain dubious because, he says, many people who are traditional fish harvesters also work in the aquaculture industry.