Kimber's Nova Scotia (Sept. 30, 2007)

Kimber’s Nova Scotia

September 30, 2007

Fish story

The president of the Northumberland Fisherman’s Association, says it could be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back.” Or perhaps the loon that cracks the lobster’s claw.

Ronnie Heighton told the Truro Daily News last week that the skyrocketing value of the Canadian loonie coupled with plummeting catches of lobster in some areas of Nova Scotia’s north shore has the potential to spell doom for struggling fishermen.

Last spring, American buyers were paying $5-6 a pound (US) for market-sized lobsters. When the season opens in the spring, he fears the price could be as low as $3 a pound.

“It’s fine in areas where fishing is good and guys are hauling in 25,000 [pounds] a season,” Heighton says. “They could sustain a loss, but in areas where fishing hasn’t been good and guys are landing about 5,000, it could sink us.”

He’s hoping “the people we sell fish to” will find alternate buyers, possibly in the European market.

Hmmm?… If the fishermen are paid for their catch in American dollars and the Canadian dollar is at par, does that mean it will be cheaper for us to buy lobsters this Christmas?

Don’t bet on it.

A failure to communicate

Annapolis County Councillor Pat McWade says he’s fed up with “us asking specific questions and us not getting a specific answer.”

The questions “us” — which is to say county council — are asking have to do with what Ottawa plans to do to keep the Digby-St. John ferry operating and what the province intends to do about issuing exclusive aquaculture licenses for beaches currently closed to clamming.

And the answers?…

Well, the councilors say, they’re not getting any. At least none they like.

For months, they’ve been writing to ACOA minister Peter MacKay, trying to get him to acknowledge that the ferry service is a vital cog in the national infrastructure and, therefore, a federal responsibility.

MacKay’s replies include vaguely worded references to “economic viability” and blah blah blah.

Says McWade: “The ferry will run, period, without reference to any economic or other indicators. We want the people in Ottawa to understand a very simple fact — that this ferry will run.”

He says council has been getting equally formulaic and platitudinous runarounds from Fisheries Minister Ronald Chisholm whenever they ask about the aquaculture leases.

The council’s reponses to these ongoing slights? They’ve agreed to write yet another letter to Chisholm, this time asking for itemized responses to their itemized questions. And they’ve put over to their next committee of the whole meeting a discussion about how to get their message across to MacKay.

Yes, that should help.

Endangered species… endangered sign

A 50-foot banner an environmental group had erected on private property near the Falmouth exit to Highway 101 to draw attention to “how environmental carelessness can kill a river” has gone missing.

Friends of the Avon River has been lobbying for five years to have the existing causeway over the river opened in order to allow the Avon to flow naturally again and restore some of the salmon habitat destroyed by silt build up at the mouth of the river. It’s also worried that a new federal fisheries act will undermine their efforts to force a full environmental assessment of a proposal to twin the Highway 101 causeway over the river. That’s why it’s encouraging people to write to the prime minister and the federal fisheries minister.

The roadside banner proclaiming “River in Distress” was part of that campaign, says Friends spokesperson Sonya Wood, who told the Hants County Journal she was disappointed that “people feel the need to destroy something of meaning to others. Shame on them. We have an endangered species that needs access to these waters.”

The RCMP is investigating the theft, though not the disappearance of the salmon.

Is the mayor proud yet?

Truro is ready to “move on” from the great gay pride flag flap of 2007. So says Charles Thompson, who organized a community forum in the town last week to discuss equality rights and religious freedoms.

In August, town council voted 6–1 to turn down a request that it fly the rainbow-coloured pennant during Gay Pride Week. At the time, Mayor Bill Mills told reporters that, as a Christian, he simply could not support the idea.

“God says, ‘I’m not in favour of that,’ and I have to look at it and say, ‘I guess I’m not either.’”

But Thompson says the mayor, the deputy mayor, three councillors and the town’s chief operating officer were among the 60 who attended last week’s forum.

“I think it was a huge success,” he told the Truro Daily News. “A lot of people opened their minds and were willing to learn and to listen.”

We shall see.

A hunk out of history

King’s County Advertiser reporter Wendy Elliott wasn’t impressed. “It doesn’t look like much to the untrained eye,” she told her paper’s readers, just “a two-toned grey hunk of rock.”

But Chris Mansky, a fossil hunter and curator of the Blue Beach Museum, who found the object during a walk along the Minas Basin beach earlier this month, says it is, in fact, a fossilized, 335-million-year-old skull of a tetrapod, a reptilian creature that crawled out of a pond onto land sometime in the long long ago.

According to Mansky, paleontologists are still trying to fill in gaps in their knowledge of creatures that existed between those that lived totally in water and those that live on land. “This,” he says of his find, “is incontrovertibly the oldest land animal.”

It’s not the first big fossil find at Blue Beach, once a swampy area of the Minas Basin. Mansky, who describes the beach as a Noah’s Ark for fossils, says the first major discovery there dates back to 1841. Currently, there are tens of thousands of pounds of fossil finds stored in and around the small private museum, which currently consists of a Quonset hut and a basement storage area.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the museum’s operators are now asking county council to rezone their property to allow for the development of a proper museum building and research centre.

Second opinion

Residents of East Mountain in Colchester County weren’t quite as smug — or as optimistic — about the long-term impact of last week’s drug raids in their neighbourhood as the Mounties who made the highly publicized arrests and seized houses and cars belonging to the alleged dealers.

Linda Rushton, who lives near one of the seized homes, says the raid “should have happened a long time ago…. The police have known about it as long as we have — at least 10 years.”

Given the lack of police action over the years, she adds, residents have simply learned to live with the dealers and the extra traffic that comes with their illicit trade. “They leave us alone if we leave them alone… You know where [the buyers are] coming from but, like I say, they don’t stop to bother anyone.”

As for the impact of the high-profile busts: “It’s not resolved. It may be stopped for a little while, but they’ll never wipe it out.”

Do you know where your spacecraft is?

At 11:20 p.m. on Oct. 4, 1967 — 40 years ago this Thursday — at least 11 residents of Shag Harbour on the province’s south shore reported seeing a large, illuminated, low-flying object falling from the sky into the harbour with what sounded like a “whoosh” followed by a loud bang. Some of them, thinking they’d witnessed a plane crash, called in the local RCMP. The officers who responded saw the object too — describing it as a pale yellow light bobbing on the water just before it sank. When rescuers were unable to turn up any sign of anything, the Canadian navy was called in to search for whatever it was — no planes had been reported missing — but divers never found anything either.

Which may explain why official government records describe what wasn’t found as a — cue the ominous music —UFO.

The Shag Harbour Incident, as it’s become known among UFologists worldwide, has been the subject of a book and several TV documentaries. Along with Rosswell, New Mexico — the scene of another similarly unexplained sighting — the small Nova Scotia fishing village now occupies a special spot in the international pantheon of earthly places where aliens may — or may not — have landed.

This coming weekend, the Shag Harbour Incident Society, a recently formed local group that is hoping to establish a permanent museum to commemorate whatever it was that happened that night, will stage a 40th anniversary celebration, featuring talks by UFO experts and local eyewitnesses, tours and, of course, a buffet supper in the local firehall as well as a collectables sale down at the community hall.

No word on whether a certain large, illuminated, low-flying object will put in a special guest appearance.

Stephen Kimber is the Rogers Communications Chair in Journalism at the University of King’s College. His column also appears in Thursday’s Daily News.


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