By Richard Bell
Eastern Shore fishermen turned out in force for a late-summer meeting about the federal government’s plans to create more Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in Nova Scotia waters. At issue was the possibility of an MPA that would cover much of the lobster fishing grounds (Area 32) off the Eastern Shore.
Peter Connors, president of the Eastern Shore Fisherman’s Protective Association, told the Cooperatorthat his members felt that the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) had thus far failed to clarify exactly what types of fishing, if any, would be permitted in an MPA off the Eastern Shore, and what DFO’s plans were for involving the fishermen in managing any MPAs.
In a letter dated September 1 to both federal, provincial, and HRM officials following up on the August 15thmeeting, Connors summarized his members concerns about the inadequacies of the information provided by DFO: “[Y]our presentation did not give any indication as to the future of our member’s interests within a future MPA, and it failed to identify what the proposal is intended to protect the area from….I think your intentions and methods must be made clearer in order to dispel any valid concerns our members have regarding this issue.”
Connors said that in addition to concerns about losing access to fishing grounds, his members were also worried about having to deal with an entirely new level of bureaucracy. “Once an MPA is designated, it comes under its own jurisdiction,” Connors said. “Right now, we deal with DFO on regulatory measures. Once there’s a MPA, you have a whole management system for the MPA to deal with.”
In the September 1 letter, Connors emphasized the role that fisherman have played in protecting and sustaining local fisheries. “Our association has been instrumental for 60 years in protecting our fishery in the most conservative, rational and sustainable way. We have resisted destructive fishing practices as well as potentially ecologically adverse industries such as oil development and fin fish feed lots. We have prevailed in preserving the proposed MPA in pristine condition.”
A 2014 DFO study identified 54 Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) around the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy. During his election campaign, Trudeau promised to fulfill Canada’s commitment under a 2010 international agreement to protect 10% of its coastal and marine areas. Once in office, Trudeau formalized this commitment to 5% by the end of 2017, and 10% by 2020, and DFO began holding public hearings about turning some of Nova Scotia’s 54 EBSAs into Marine Protected Areas.
Connors said that he had not yet gotten any replies from federal officials to his September letter.