2007 Jul 27
By BARB RAYNER
CALAIS Several Canadian fishermen had hoped to testify at the Maine Bureau of Environmental Protection hearings last week into Downeast LNG's application for a liquefied natural gas terminal in Passamaquoddy Bay but only one of them was allowed to do so.
Maria Recchia, co-ordinator for Fundy North Fishermen's Association, who spoke on behalf of the four local fishermen's groups from Charlotte County Fundy North, Fundy Weir, Campobello and Grand Manan said the fisheries became a huge issue and the main focus of the hearings.
"There were two main fisheriespanels and the panel I was on hadthree scientists and myself and thenext day there were about eight fishermen. There were four of us on thepanel I was on and we each had 10 to20 minutes to speak," Recchia said.
"There were several lawyers there and after we spoke the lawyer for the company cross-examined us and the intervenors cross-examined us as well as the board. It was quite involved and very legalistic.
"At any point if you spoke about anything that is out of their jurisdiction, the lawyer for the company stood up and objected and then your lawyer would get up. They really interrogate you."
What the board was most interested in, she said, was how the LNG terminal in Saint John is going to affect fishermen. Recchia said there were six or seven Canadian fishermen who had hoped to speak at the hearings trying to make the connection between the New Brunswick and Maine fisheries but in the end only one was allowed to testify.
That was Laurence Cook, of Grand Manan, who fishes in what's known as a lobster "grey zone" around Machias Seal Island. He was allowed to testify because these are contested waters between Canada and the U.S.
"None of the other Canadian fishermen were allowed to speak. Even though there would probably be more fisheries impaired on this side of the border,Canada has no authority over that project. It is out of the board's jurisdiction to consider anything outside Maine waters,"Recchia said.
"This is a federal process in the U.S. and we are not in their jurisdiction. There is no place for us to show our concerns. I was allowed to speak myself because of our experience in Saint John because we are having quite a lot of problems there with the LNG with fishermen losing access and losing gear.
"They were interested in that and they thought it might be similar here in how it would affect the Maine fishermen. It seemed to me that the fisheries concerns were one of the biggest concerns."
There was a fair bit of evidence presented that Mill Cove - where the proposed LNG terminal would be located - is a breeding area for big female lobsters in the summer, said Recchia.
"The Bay of Fundy has all the big female lobsters. In southern Maine there are no big lobsters. The Bay of Fundy is really seeding the whole Maine coast for lobster. If we could prove that Mill Cove is the place for these large female lobster that could stop it but there has never been a study on this."
It would need at least a two-year study,said Recchia,and if that had to be carried out it could postpone the project for a couple of years.
"There are a number of things they can do to make the project less attractive if they set all kinds of conditions. There was a lot of talk about how they would compensate fishermen.
"They (Downeast LNG) have proposed a compensation package but itwas vague and pretty lousy. Therewas no teeth to it and they woulddecide who would get compensation.
"It was very interesting to hear the stories the company were telling. They said that they had contacted Fundy North and we refused to meet with them but we have no evidence they ever contacted us."
Even though most of the Canadian fishermen were not allowed to testify,Recchia said she felt those who were able to speak did well at the hearings.
"A while ago we thought we had a case so our lawyer spent more time and energy on this and our costs tripled then we had all the Canadian fishermen thrown out but I would say at these hearing we did as well as we could. The board asked the right questions.
"They were very interested in the fisheries stuff and made statements that the fisheries - economically, culturally and biologically - were incredibly important to Maine and they reprimanded the company a few times so I felt they seemed like good people
"They asked very good questions. My sense is that they will try to restrict it somewhat. I don't know if they would turn it down but they could regulate it to death. I was worried at the beginning but at the end I felt we did quite well."
The cost for the lawyers for the hearing has been quite substantial, she said, so they have sent letters to all the fishermen in Charlotte County asking them to give $100 towards this and they have already received some money.
"We have raised quite a lot ofmoney but we still need another$5,000 to $6,000.We got $11,000 as a gift to help out but we have at least another $5,000 to raise.The fishermen have not actually donated until now.It was the associations."
Fishermen should make theircheques payable to Fundy NorthFishermen's Association and mailthem to 62 Princess Royal Street, St.Andrews E5B 2A5.
© 2007 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.
The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB