Fishermen in the Bay of Fundy have been left wondering and worrying who will be responsible for the tidal energy turbine that was deployed in the Minas Passage by Cape Sharp Tidal, just days before the parent company in the venture filed for bankruptcy in Ireland.
The turbine deployment was done on July 22, nine days before the lobster fishing area (LFA) 35 lobster fishery closed for the season on July 31 and four days before OpenHydro Group Ltd. filed for bankruptcy. OpenHydro owns 97 per cent of Cape Sharp Tidal. Emera owns the other three per cent.
The tidal turbine deployment was also done in contravention of the environmental assessment, said Colin Sproul, spokesman for the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association.
“Three times in their environmental assessment it says they should avoid any operations in the area during the open lobster season in LFA 35 and now three times they have ignored their own recommendations,” he said in an interview.
“When they deployed the first turbine, when they took it back out and now when they put in their second one. They could have just waited for the next set of tides and LFA 35 would have been closed but instead they chose to tow their turbine through some of the most heavily fished areas of LFA 35. At least one of our members lost 100 traps during the deployment.”
Sproul said fishermen were given 24 hours notice that they were coming. “That’s not enough time to move traps,” he said. “The extreme nature in the Minas Passage is the strongest tides on earth and you can only do so much on a tide. Twenty-four hours notice is not enough time.”
Adding to the issue is OpenHydro filing for bankruptcy and the timing of it.
“They put their turbine in the water one week and the next week are filing for bankruptcy,” said Sproul. “Now we’re left wondering who’s holding the bag? Who is responsible to remove this turbine? Who do people like our member that was affected by them look to for compensation? Who would the greater Bay of Fundy community look toward for compensation when more harm is caused by this turbine by it’s installation, operation or failure to be removed due to the fact its parent company has filed for bankruptcy? That’s a big worry that’s on our plate right now. We’re left wondering where that leaves fishermen in LFA 35. Who’s going to be monitoring this turbine? Once that turbine is in the water the only way to shut it off is to take it back out of the water. The tide moves that turbine. You can’t stop its function so its going to be spinning away every day and we’re not sure who’s responsible for monitoring it. There’s a lot of questions the Bay of Fundy community deserve answers to.”
When contacted, Emera spokesperson Stacey Pineau said Emera’s focus at this time “is ensuring that the receiver/liquidator has a plan for the continued environmental monitoring and safe operation of the Cape Sharp Tidal turbine that is currently deployed in the Bay of Fundy until they determine a final plan for it. We understand that the receiver is actively taking steps to put a team in place to manage the Cape Sharp Tidal assets as soon as possible. We appreciate the difficult position this uncertainty puts many local businesses in and we are actively reinforcing the concerns of suppliers, partners and others involved in the project with the receiver.”
When asked about deploying the turbine during the open lobster season Pineau said “while the environmental assessment suggests avoiding lobster fishing seasons to the extent possible, it does not prohibit marine operations during these times of the year.”
Cape Sharp Tidal representatives worked with fishermen in the months leading up to deployment, said Pineau.
“There were approximately 90 separate interactions between fishers and Cape Sharp Tidal representatives between mid-February and late July. Based on valuable feedback and advice provided by local fishers during this engagement, plans were modified for a number of aspects of marine operations. For example, vessel routing during marine operations was based on information shared with fishers throughout the spring and reflects input they provided where possible.”