By Richard Bell
Opponents of the proposed Eastern Shore Islands Marine Protected Area were out in force again at the latest public meeting of the Association of Eastern Shore Communities Protecting Environment and Historical Access (AESC-PEHA) at the Sheet Harbour Legion on Saturday, March 16.
The two-hour meeting was an unrelenting assault on DFO’s ESI MPA proposal.
“We are going to defeat this thing,” said Peter Connors, head of the Eastern Shore Fisherman’s Protective Association, to a round of cheers and applause from the group of roughly 100 people. Connors got more applause and laughter later on when he summarized the position of the ESFPA’s members: “I’ve got two kinds of fishermen: fishermen who don’t want an MPA, and fishermen who REALLY don’t want an MPA.”
Chris Jones, a 38-year veteran of DFO, took the crowd through a highly detailed Powerpoint presentation, challenging DFO’s claims at every turn and asserting that a “Group of Three” was pushing to “impose” an MPA on the Eastern Shore.
Jones reviewed the arguments that opponents have been making, and added one new one, that there might be a “buffer zone” around the MPA expanding the area under regulation.
The guidelines of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) suggest that it’s essential to “control activities outside the MPA boundaries that may affect the long-term viability of the MPA.” Jones criticized DFO for not having publicly acknowledged the need for buffer zones and the implications of such zones.
Jones then asked a rhetorical question, and answered it: “Is it a coincidence that DFO is targeting one of poorest coastlines in one of the poorest provinces in Canada to impose its first coastal marine park?”
“What we’ve found is that a highly organized Group of Three single-minded environmental interests —DFO, academics, and NGOs, NGOs largely foreign-funded—have targeted the Eastern Shore area for an experimental coastal MPA, under the guise of what we consider false ideology. The Group truly believe they can use whatever strategies and tactics, and inconsistences, and I will use the word “deceit” because we’ve asked questions of some of those groups and gotten opposite answers when we had the pieces of paper in our hands that proved it….”
“The Group of 3 started planning several years ago how to exploit the Eastern Shore in our view, based on the records we’ve got. The group has proven they now know how to apply the ancient strategy of stealth on an unsuspecting community. They continue to apply this ancient strategy by not being open or transparent on their intent….”
“The Group of 3 are working hard to convince everyone, nothing will change, no one will be affected, all the while dozens of highly paid federal bureaucrats are beavering away drafting regulations that will be phased in once an MPA is announced. To naively believe otherwise, do at your own peril.”
The meeting also heard from Herb Nash, president of the 4VN Management Society on Cape Breton, about an earlier struggle fishermen had gone through over the establishment of an MPA on St. Ann’s Bank. Nash had little good to say about the negotiations with DFO, which resulted in the creation of an MPA with a No Take Zone ending fishing over most of the Bank.
[A high-ranking DFO official disputes DFO’s intention to “impose” an MPA in “DFO Director General: No ‘Imposed’ MPAs." also in the April, 2019 printed edition of the Cooperator.]