Fishermen pissed at environment minister’s OK to tidal turbines

Colin Sproul

Lobster fisherman Colin Sproul

Nova Scotia’s environment minister has come under fire from fishermen for approving the installation of two tidal turbines in the Minas Passage near Parrsboro.

“The environment minister has shown a shameful lack of judgment by ignoring the concerns of a broad-based list of concerned groups,” says Colin Sproul who speaks for the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fisherman’s Association.

He adds those concerned groups include his association — the largest fisherman’s group in Nova Scotia — as well as every other fisherman’s organization in the province, plus environmentalists and First Nations.

Environment minister gives OK

On Monday, Environment Minister Margaret Miller formally authorized Cape Sharp Tidal to install two, 1,000 tonne, five-storey-high turbines in its berth at the FORCE test site off Black Rock.

“If we are to advance our collective knowledge of the turbines’ impact on our fish and marine mammals, demonstration turbines need to be in the water,” a government news release quotes her as saying.

Miller approved joint plans by the company and FORCE to monitor the effects of the turbines on marine life in spite of a scientific report from the federal department of fisheries and oceans pointing to serious deficiencies in those plans. (See my previous story.)

In light of the DFO report, Miller announced that FORCE will be required to improve its monitoring plans before the province allows any more turbines to be put in the water.

But that doesn’t satisfy Colin Sproul who accuses Miller of acting as a rubber stamp for a questionable energy project.

“I see the environment minister’s place as being important to err on the side of caution,” he says. “Her job is to protect the environment.”

Sproul vs. Cape Sharp Tidal

The fisherman’s spokesman is also unhappy with Cape Sharp Tidal for failing to consult with his group. Earlier this month, the company announced it would delay installation of the first of its two turbines while it listened to the concerns of fishermen and others worried about potential harm to the marine environment.

But the company has not met with the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fisherman’s Association and Sarah Dawson, who speaks for the company, did not answer when asked about any meetings with other groups.

Colin Sproul says the company and FORCE have suggested getting together for an informal discussion over coffee, but he wants a public meeting where the fishermen can put their concerns on the record.

“We are more than willing to meet with Cape Sharp Tidal Ventures and with Fundy Ocean Research at any time,” he says, “but we refuse to do it unless it’s in a transparent public manner where any historic stakeholder in the Bay of Fundy, who feels they’ve been excluded, can sit down with us.”

In an e-mail to Wark Times, Sarah Dawson replied that the company imposed no conditions on any meeting with the fishermen, but she did not respond to my question asking whether Cape Sharp Tidal would participate if such a meeting were held in public.

Marine environment

Sproul is also concerned by a statement in the company’s formal environmental monitoring plan which says that the Minas Passage “does not have a diverse marine environment.” (See section 2.2.1 of its Environmental Effects Monitoring Plan)

“I almost fell out of my chair when I read it,” he says. “The Bay of Fundy is known as the most diverse marine eco-system in the world,” he adds. “And the most concentrated place for life in that eco-system is in the Minas Passage, so that statement is completely ridiculous.”

When asked if the Fisherman’s Association will seek a court injunction to stop installation of the first turbine, now sitting on a dock in Pictou, Sproul referred me to David Coles, a lawyer with the BoyneClarke legal firm in Dartmouth.

In an e-mail to Wark Times, Coles wrote: “We are reviewing the matter . I am not in a position to give details at this point.”

Meantime, when she was asked when the first turbine might be deployed, Sarah Dawson replied: “I don’t have dates to share on deployment yet.”

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2 Responses to Fishermen pissed at environment minister’s OK to tidal turbines

  1. Gordon Heffler says:

    If you want a true Canadian foul-up then just get the government of this fair land involved in anything…..the result will always be the same….tens of thousands if not millions of hard earned by the public…. money in government pockets looking for a ill advised place to spend it. No matter which side of this prevails…the ultimate losers are all of us who owned the money that is being squandered on a project that will never, in my opinion, see an electron flow into the public power grid. Remember the “Heavy Water Plant” in Cape Breton that was going to make us all rich? This is a re-incarnation of the same notion. This thing should have been put to bed before the dreamy-eyed engineers sold the idea that it could ever work….at what cost??? dollars..environment and heaven only knows what else…. Maybe the province should get involved in making rocket launch pads for plasma driven trips to Mars??…. This whole thing is another wake-up reality check for everyone on all sides……and so it goes…again!

  2. Jeremy Longmire says:

    They cry about this but do nothing about the over fishing they do themselves. Fish more then their 300/375 traps and sneak in over their quota of halibut . They’ll slit their own throats anyway lol

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