LNG and fishing can’t co-exist in Passamaquoddy Bay

Posted Aug. 06, 2010, at 8:53 p.m.

The news that Calais LNG’s financial backer is pulling the plug generated a huge sigh of relief for those of us who make a living by fishing in Passamaquoddy Bay. Why? The simple truth is that LNG and fishing cannot co-exist in the bay.

Passamaquoddy Bay has productive fishing grounds and is also a source of seed lobster for a greater part of the Maine coast. It is also a challenging place to fish. Our fishing grounds are already limited, because the U.S. side of the bay is very narrow. The window of time to fish is also very narrow, because Passamaquoddy Bay has some of the highest tides in the world — we rush to pull our traps at slack tide when we can see the buoys. We have to fish during the day and when the weather is decent.

LNG tankers have the very same restrictions because the cargo is dangerous. This puts LNG and fishing in direct competition. It also makes LNG shipping very different from current ship traffic in the bay.

The Coast Guard will require LNG tankers to go through the bay only at slack tide, only during the day, and only with two miles of visibility or more and low winds. For security reasons, the Coast Guard will not allow us to be anywhere close to the tankers, so we will miss the slack tide when a tanker is passing. Also for safety reasons, at all times in the bay LNG tankers must be escorted by three or four large tractor tugs, which will chew up our gear.

There is just not enough room for both fishing and LNG in the bay. LNG would shut down the local fishing industry, and many jobs would be lost.

Calais LNG is trying to sidestep this issue — not by saying fishing won’t be affected, but by instead saying the LNG tankers and tractor tugs will travel in Canadian waters to avoid Maine fishermen. But everyone knows Canada is not backing down. Just last month, a top Canadian diplomat said that LNG tankers will not be allowed in Canadian waters when a U.S. route is available.

Calais LNG’s “plan” to avoid our fishing grounds is no plan at all. Calais LNG, like Downeast LNG and Quoddy Bay LNG before it, simply cannot get around either their inability to use Canadian waters or displacement of Mainers who fish the bay.

Many towns and even families are divided about LNG, so it is not easy for us to speak out. But Passamaquoddy Bay fishermen testified against Downeast LNG three years ago, and we will testify against Calais LNG if we have to because fishing jobs in Passamaquoddy Bay support many area families. We want to keep our jobs and preserve the tradition of fishing for our children and their children. And the truth is that very, very few “LNG jobs” will be given to local folks — and those will be mostly short-term construction jobs.

We’re not against LNG. But modern LNG terminals are offshore, which would allow us to keep fishing and is safer for everyone.

Calais LNG spells the end to fishing in Passamaquoddy Bay. If we need LNG, let’s just put it in the right place.

Scott Emery of Eastport is a lifelong commercial lobsterman and fisherman.

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