Cable installation cutting into scallop fishery

Maritime Electric officials meeting with fishermen Monday in O'Leary

Published on April 20, 2017

The submarine cable and the cable-laying vessel Isaac Newton are crossing over a lucrative scallop fising bed off Borden. Maritime Electic wants fishermen to avoid the area while the cable work is in progress.

©Colin MacLean/Journal Pioneer

BORDEN -- Prince Edward Island scallop fishermen could be impacted by delays in completing the installation of submarine power cables in the Northumberland Strait.

Maritime Electric officials will meet with fishermen Monday in O’Leary to discuss why the laying of the new electrical cables is taking longer than expected and to explain why a temporary fishery exclusion zone is necessary around the work site.
There’s also a meeting this Friday in Cape Tormentine involving scallop advisory committee members from both sides of the strait and Maritime Electric to discuss compensation.

“Plans were to have the cables finished last year,” Maritime Electric spokeswoman Kim Griffin acknowledged.

But the crew doing the installation experienced equipment failures, there were weather delays and the strait iced over earlier than expected.

 “We’ve worked really closely with the fishermen,” Griffin said of the plans for laying the cable.

Griffin said the cable-laying vessel, the Isaac Newton, was ready to return in March, but ice conditions did not allow that.

The power utility now expects it will be late May before installation work, the burying of the cable and surveys of the worksite are completed.

We certainly did not want to be working into May. We were trying our best to get as much work done as possible this winter

Maritime Electric spokesperson, Kim Griffin

“Unfortunately, the news isn’t great, but we are confident that we will get the work done in May and that the project will be completed on the marine side,” she said.

It’s a situation his members, especially scallop fishermen will not be happy about, suggests Prince County Fishermen’s Association president Lee Knox who participated in a conference call with Maritime Electric officials on Tuesday. He has helped arrange a meeting between the utility and his fishermen for Monday, April 24. It will be held at Access P.E.I. in O’Leary at 7 p.m.

Knox said scallop fishermen will be impacted the most by the kilometer-wide no fishing zone across the strait where the cable is being laid.

West Point fisherman Tony Sharpe welcomes indication compensation will be paid, but he wonders how it should be dished out. If it goes only to fishermen who traditionally fish on the grounds being excluded and they then move their scallop drags to other beds, then those fishermen will be adversely affected, he said.

Knox said how the $500,000 being offered as compensation will be spent still has not been decided but he agrees with Sharpe the impact the exclusion places on other beds would have to be considered.

Griffin stresses the exclusion is temporary, just until the cables are laid and surveys show they have been properly covered. Fishermen will be able to fish over the cable’s route thereafter, just as they have had over the existing cable.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Griffin said. “We certainly did not want to be working into May. We were trying our best to get as much work done as possible this winter.”

She noted the crew of the cable-laying vessel used the winter months to modify its equipment and work is now progressing well.

Griffin said it’s important that fishing activity not be taking place during the installation period when the cables are uncovered and divers and other crew members are at work.  

The new cables, Griffin said, will likely be ready to be energized by summer.