© SUBMITTED - Fisheries and Oceans Canada
A dredger alongside its tug works to clear the channel separating Malpeque Bay and the Darnley Basin.
MALPEQUE - The federal government has awarded a contract to fix a problem that's plagued fishermen in Malpeque Bay.
Federal Fisheries Minister and Egmont MP Gail Shea announced in September, 2013 that funding had been secured to study the narrowing of the harbour channel, but there's been no public update from DFO since then.
Nathalie Levesque, DFO regional director of small craft harbours for the Maritimes, confirmed on Thursday that the contract for the study has been awarded to CBCL Charlottetown and that it's expected to be completed before the end of the year.
Levesque said she expects the report to be comprehensive.
"It's first to identify all possible options and second it's to analyze those options and look at what impact they would have," she said.
CBCL Charlottetown is expected to take the next several months to meet with industry stakeholders in the area.
There are also some public consultations planned in association with the study. They are expected to take place between June and July. There will be published notices to announce specifics dates, closer to the events.
Getting safely in and out of the shallow channel from the Malpeque Harbour to the Darnley Basin has been an ongoing issue for the lobster and mussel boats that ply the waters beyond the North Shore port.
The narrowing channel, which shifts and fills in each year with sand, can be, at times, less than five feet deep, which makes it difficult for a 45-foot empty boat, let alone one loaded with lobster traps, to navigate through without getting stuck.
There are about 30 inshore fisheries vessels that use the harbour every year and additional 20 boats used for aquaculture.
For the past several fishing seasons DFO has been bringing in a dredger to make the path navigable. They expect to do the same this year as soon as the ice clears enough to get the equipment in the water.