Fishermen in Freeport used a condemned wharf for loading gear and traps on Dumping Day.
Small Crafts and Harbours closed the Fish Point wharf on Oct. 28 this year and blocked access to it with large armour rock.
Local fishermen had the rock removed for the start of lobster season this week.
“The fishermen didn’t have any choice,” says Karen Crocker, harbour manager with the Freeport Harbour Authority. “There are 2,000 traps loaded from that wharf every year.”
The start of the lobster season in that area was Tuesday, Nov. 29. The harbour authority finally managed to sit down with Small Crafts and Harbours just the week before on Thursday, Nov. 24.
Gary Hubbard, the Southwest Nova area chief for Small Craft and Harbours says they have asked Public Works to figure out if they can redesign and reinforce the wharf to make it safe for the 5-ton trucks that the buyers usually use for landing catches.
Crocker says the minor repairs would include reinforcing the pilings and cribwork, and adding some posts. Right now there are no posts to tie onto, only metal beams.
Hubbard says he should hear back from Public Works early in the new year and then he’ll bring that plan back to the harbour authority.
“We’re not just going to go with whatever design Public Works suggests, without first checking with the fishermen there,” said Hubbard this week by phone.
If Public Works determines Fish Point wharf is too expensive to fix, then Small Craft and Harbours will look at adding an expansion onto the main wharf in South Cove.
Fishermen already use every inch of that wharf on dumping day for storing traps.
Most boats in the Freeport fleet can’t get in or out of South Cove for two hours either side of low water – that’s eight hours every day.
This year, low tide was 8 a.m. on dumping day, meaning most fishermen returning for their second load of traps couldn’t get in. At least one boat got stuck in the channel this year attempting to come in at low water.
Most years with low tides like this, the fishermen were able to tie up at Fish Point the night before. This year many left South Cove at 3 a.m. and tied up to a lobster carr to wait for the 6 a.m. start.
Hubbard says Small Craft and Harbours is looking at options for providing low water access to the harbour.
If it is possible to dredge the old channel between the breakwaters and there is only one mound, that might be a more cost effective option, he says. They are also considering a new channel straight out from the wharf.
Funding for the first option might fall under ‘regular capital’, meaning anything between $50,000 and $1 million, which SCH can assign out of their allocated budget. The second option might push things into ‘major capital’, projects over $1 million and administered by Ottawa.
Hubbard says they will be replacing the armor rock on Fish Point for safety and liability reasons.