CLARK'S HABOUR, N.S. – Despite concerns from at least one fishing organization it doesn’t look like there is going to be any fast-tracking of a new Canadian Coast Guard lifeboat for the Clark’s Harbour Small Lifeboat Station.
Kevin Ross, president of Brazil Rock 33/34 lobster fishermen’s organization, says he’s been trying for the past year to get one of the new vessels posted to the Clark’s Harbour station, even if just for the opening weeks of the lobster fishery before the scheduled delivery date in 2020.
“Our Coast Guard boats are all old,” said Ross. “Last year the Clark’s Harbour was closed down three days the first week of the lobster season.
“We’ve got a lot of boats hitting the water all at once loaded with traps. We want something faster,” he said, noting two of the new vessels are sitting in Dartmouth waiting to be shipped to British Columbia, while a third, the CCGS Pennant Bay was launched in St. Ann’s Newfoundland last month. A fourth has gone to Quebec.
Ross said the vessel in Newfoundland won’t be used in the winter.
“Originally we wanted to bring it here and use it for the lobster season opening. Now there’s two sitting in Dartmouth,” he said.
Ross said even if they could use them for the lobster season opening, from his conversations with the Coast Guard it’s “still unclear” what SAR (search and rescue) resources will be dispatched and posted along the coast from Eastern Passage to Digby for the LFA 33 and 34 lobster season opening on Nov. 26.
Ross said the issue was “the first thing on the list” when he was meeting with federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson on Monday, Oct. 22.
Wilkinson, who was in Nova Scotia to make an Atlantic Fisheries Fund funding announcement and was to host a round table on North American Right Whale regulations, said the department is “certainly having ongoing conversations” about the possibility of one of new vessels being used for the lobster season opening when he was asked about this issue.
“But the boat that is there now is not one of the older boats in the fleet. At this stage the Coast Guard’s view is it is fully seaworthy, and it does fill the need,” said Wilkinson. “We recognize the need for a new asset here” and “are working hard to bring forward the new assets as soon as possible.”
Presently, the CCGS Courtney Bay out of New Brunswick is stationed at the Clark’s Harbour station, while the CCGS Clark’s Harbour awaits a refit in Cape Breton. The CCGS Spray, which was in Clark’s Harbour, sits at Shelburne Marine, reportedly unable to pass inspection.
The Clark’s Harbour station is one of the busiest in the country, averaging 170 calls a year.
The Canadian Coast Guard is building 20 new lifeboats. Sixteen will go to the east coast and four to the west coast, said Wilkinson. The replacement for the Clark’s Harbour station is 18th on the list.