2007 Apr 27
Fundy North Fishermen's Association and Fundy Weir Fishermen's Association, both from Southwest New Brunswick, have framed up to intervene in the State of Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) hearings on the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in Passamaquoddy Bay.
The two fishermen's groups are the only representatives of the Canadian fishing industry officially participating in the hearings.
Janice Harvey of Save Passamaquoddy Bay - Canada said, "The BEP process is a real opportunity to stop these projects. Most of us are very focussed on the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission FERC) process right now and we are so grateful to the fishermen for stepping up to the plate on this."
Fishermen have many concerns about LNG in the bay.
"If our experience with the LNG terminal in Saint John is any indication, we can expect major impacts on the fishing industry in Passamaquoddy Bay if either of these proposals go through," said Maria Recchia, Fundy North Fishermen's Association.
The fishermen share many of the environmental, economic and cultural concerns of their allies with the most critical being: the effects of light and noise pollution on the herring fishery; the impact of ballast water on larvae and plankton; the loss of access to fishing grounds along the tanker route; and, destruction of fishing gear by tankers and tugboats.
Light and noise pollution could severely impact the herring weir fishery. Robin Carter, a member of Fundy Weir Fishermen's Association remarked, "I have weirs off the Wolves, and if the LNG comes through, my fishery will be destroyed. The light and noise from these tankers would make it impossible to catch herring there."
All fisheries could lose ecologically valuable larvae, feed, and plankton when each tanker sucks up millions of gallons of ballast water from the Bay as they unload their LNG cargo. One company, Quoddy Bay LLC, told Maine fishermen that they will put screens on the intakes to keep living organisms out of the ballast. The screens used by most LNG tankers keep out large objects and organisms but cannot exclude plankton or larvae.
Plankton nets are incredibly fine mesh. They cannot be used for this purpose because they would dramatically slow the process.
But the biggest concern to fishermen is the route the tankers will take. With Canada's opposition to the projects, the companies are expressing interest in using the Grand Manan Channel instead of the shipping lanes, to minimize their passage through Canadian waters.
Large numbers of fishermen from both New Brunswick and Maine fish for lobster and other species in the Grand Manan Channel, and would be severely impacted by tanker route exclusion zones.
It is estimated up to four tankers could be transiting to and from the terminals weekly. Fishing exclusion zones are expected around the terminals, and around the ships as they are transiting.
In addition, the LNG tankers will come in at high tide in daylight, an important time for hauling lobster traps. In fog and bad weather, the ships will not be able to travel to the terminal and therefore could be stacked up waiting for the weather to clear. For security reasons, they will not anchor LNG tankers, and instead would move around until the route is passable.
The two fishermen's associations are intervening in the Maine BEP hearings on the LNG proposals. There is a three-part approval process for LNG projects in the U.S.
FERC, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the State of Maine must all approve the projects. Projects can be defeated by any one of these three bodies.
Normally, the State of Maine issues permits for projects like the LNG, and the BEP hears appeals. In the case of Passamaquoddy Bay, however, the BEP has assumed jurisdiction over the LNG file, and any appeals will go to the court system.
If the BEP denies permits to the LNG companies, the companies will have to go through the court appeal process.
The BEP hearings for Downeast LNG will take place in mid July in Robbinston, Me.
The fishermen's associations have hired the law firm of Shems, Dunkiel, Kassel & Saunders from Burlington, Vt., who specialize in environmental justice and energy issues, to represent the fishing industry. Legal fees could be as high as $20,000. So far the associations have raised $6,000.
They hope that more fishermen and seafood buyers will get involved in this issue by donating to the LNG legal fund.
Contributions should be made out to Fundy North Fishermen's Association and sent to: LNG Legal Fund, c/o Fundy North Fishermen's Assoc., 62 Princess Royal St., St. Andrews, NB E5B 2A5.
For more information, call Maria Recchia at the Fundy North office (506)529-4157.
© 2007 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.
The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB