The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has initiated a study to assess the current state of small craft harbours in Canada, as well as the emerging and recurring challenges that are being faced by the local harbour authorities who manage them and the coastal communities that rely upon them.
The study got underway in late spring with industry meetings in Ottawa, followed by a week-long tour by the committee to coastal communities in eastern Canada from June 11 to 15, that included visits to St. John’s, Harbour Grace and Carbonear in Newfoundland and Labrador, Grosse-Ile, Cap-aux-Meules and Havre Aubert in the Magdalen Islands, Quebec, Malpeque, wwwSummerside and Hardy’s Channel on Prince Edward Island, Escuminac, Pointe Sapin, Loggiecroft, Neguac and Tabusintac in New Brunswick and Barrington and Pubnico in southwestern Nova Scotia, where tours were taken by the Committee of the Bear Point, Falls Point and Dennis Point wharves after meeting with harbour managers and stakeholders.
“We realize this is important right across the country, coast to coast and even the north coast,” said B.C. MP Mel Arnold, one of the seven committee members on the tour, during the stop at the Falls Point wharf in Woods Harbour on June 15. “We’re trying to look to see what’s working, what’s not working in maintaining the upkeep of these small craft harbours.”
Committee member, B.C. MP Fin Donnelly, who is the NDP Fisheries Critic, said what the committee is “hearing is a consistency in concerns in the lack of funding, lack of funding for dredging, other maintenance and operations. Some are facing expansion issues because industry is growing. Over the last decade and a half there hasn’t been the funding into the infrastructure of these harbours that fishermen rely on so we’re now seeing the lack of investment coming to roost and needing repairs, maintenance and in some cases expansion.”
The committee study was initiated by South Shore St. Margaret’s MP Bernadette Jordan, committee chair, “because I know this is something very important in the area. In southwestern Nova Scotia as we all know our economic driver is the fishery so knowing the wharves and infrastructure has not been maintained as it should be, knowing we are at capacity in a lot of them because of the size of the boats, we just want to know the best way forward. How can we make sure we can sustain these structures?”
The committee will resume the study in the fall, when it will visit small craft harbour communities in B.C. and central Canada, where there are freshwater fisheries that are is an important economic driver in those communities, said Jordan.
“We will also have four other meetings in Ottawa where people can come and present and then we’ll have department officials in to ask them questions from what we’ve heard. We’re hoping to see this wrap up by October.”
Jordan said there was no question that small craft harbour ports are the economic drivers for coastal fishing communities.