We Don’t Think So
“The lifeblood of our coastal communities is significantly dependent on the sustainability of our fisheries.” So said Willie Courtney, of the Shubenacadie River Commercial Fishermen’s Association in his opening remarks at a meeting with Environment Minister Margaret Miller and her staff on August 23. We were six people from diverse backgrounds invited to attend the meeting arranged by Willie to speak about the tidal power project being developed in the Bay of Fundy.
We (fishers, university professors & concerned citizens) all volunteered our time and expertise to express our concerns for this body of water that we all care about. We wanted to emphasize that there is not enough baseline information about the area to deploy turbines nor be able to judge the effects on the environment. This was determined not only by our group but by the federal Department of Fisheries & Oceans who have said there are insufficient measures in place to be able to detect or mitigate harm to the fish, mammals & other marine creatures that transit through this biologically sensitive area, the passage that leads them to their spawning & feeding grounds in the Minas Basin. There may be an Environmental Effects Monitoring Plan developed by the proponents but there is no requirement nor any way for them to implement it. In the absence of science the precautionary principle is supposed to take precedence.
Although the government has assigned regulation of the project to NS Environment, they do not have the necessary data, funding, nor ability to do anything but approve the projects that the Department of Energy has been pushing for the past decade (through three successive governments). Surely rubber-stamping projects is not what their responsibility is. Who is responsible for protecting the actual environment in all of this? Why do the fishers and academics even have to become advocates for the Bay of Fundy’s health, for the food security that comes from this resource? Isn’t it the job of our government to protect the interests and resources of our province?
Darren Porter, a weir fisherman from Bramber, noted to the Minister that when the fishery resource gets damaged by these turbines the small-scale fishermen will also disappear and the knowledge can’t be replaced nor can the fishery simply restart once it’s shut down. Minister Miller replied,” Resources evolve,” citing the example, “there was once 3000 farms in Nova Scotia and now there are only 300.”
We would submit that any ‘evolution’ of this sort to the fishing industry would be detrimental for all Nova Scotians. The scientific evidence we presented clearly demonstrates that the fish and marine mammal mortality, would be directly proportional to the number of turbines deployed. This would result in the eventual elimination of the fishing economy in the Bay of Fundy and beyond.
When asked why a second turbine will be allowed onto the Cape Sharp Tidal demonstration berth, where there was originally only one unit planned for in the Environmental Assessment, the Minister said it was because the proponents requested this and they “don’t believe there will be any harm.” One can suppose that it is good that they have such faith in the proponents but the marine biologist in the room, Dr. Michael Dadswell, who studied the impact of tidal turbines on marine animals for years, stated just the opposite. Common sense suggests that you only deploy one turbine to determine the environmental effects prior to adding more.
Is scientific evidence supposed to simply be ignored within government chambers, or do they only listen to scientists who toe the corporate line? Do the demands of industry lobbyists trump the basic needs of the environment, of sustainable fisheries that have fed Nova Scotians and their Mi’kmaw predecessors for millennia? We don’t think so.
Willie Courtney, Shubenacadie River Commercial Fishermen’s Association
Chris Gertridge, Gaspereau Fishermans Association
Darren Porter, Bramber Weir Fisherman
Dr. Paul Stephenson, Acadia University Mathematics and Statistics department
Dr. Michael Dadswell, Biologist, Acadia University
Marke Slipp, advocate for Heavy Current Fishers Association