Masset crabbers oppose planned wind farm

  • Jan. 20, 2003 9:00 a.m.

Crab fishermen are worried that a proposed wind farm development in Hecate Strait could cut them off from their fishing grounds, devastating one of Masset’s healthiest industries.
The Area A Crab Association, which represents 41 crabbers based on the islands and Prince Rupert, is strongly opposed to Nai Kun Wind Development Inc.’s application to use the seabed in the middle of Hecate Strait for exploration and investigation.
The block of Hecate Strait which Nai Kun wants covers about one-third of the rich crabbing grounds off the east coast of the islands, said Masset resident Lisa Thorgeirson, who is married to crab fisherman and association director Jeff Thorgeirson.
“You would be surprised how big an area they’re talking about,” Ms Thorgeirson said. “If this permit was accepted, and these windmills built, we wouldn’t be able to crab.”
The crab boats would not be able to maneuver around the windmill masts sticking up out of the ocean, she explained. And although the proposed wind farm doesn’t take up all the crabbing grounds, the reduced catch would make crabbing financially unviable for most boats.
Ms Thorgeirson said the local crab vessels bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to Masset every year. Her family, she said, sells crab to the local processing plant, even though they could get a higher price in Prince Rupert, because they want to keep Masset going as a strong community.
“We want to support the plant and all the people who work here,” she said. “We buy our groceries here, we buy our supplies here.”
Ms Thorgeirson said wind power is a good thing, but she wants to know why the wind farm couldn’t be built on logged land, where it wouldn’t be in anyone’s way.
Nai Kun (formerly Uniterre Resources) has applied to Land and Water BC for a permit allowing it to explore and investigate a portion of the seabed in Hecate Strait for the purposes of developing a wind farm.
In a letter to the Smithers Land Office, the Area A Crab Association directors said they were shocked to read Nai Kun’s notice in the Observer earlier this month, because in a meeting last year the crabbers had clearly outlined their favoured fishing grounds to the company.
“They had agreed to work with us in finding another more suitable location,” the letter reads. “We are shocked that they obviously have no intention on working with us and are still trying to place this wind farm directly where we have commercially fished for over 50 years.”
Masset council also has questions about Nai Kun’s permit application. Trevor Jarvis, chief administrative officer of the village, said councillors fully supported the crab association’s concerns, and had more questions of their own.
“What does ‘exploration and investigation for seabed survey’ actually refer to? Will this activity have an impact on the local fishing industry now or in the future, and have the concerns of the industry been disregarded as the crab association letter suggests? Currently the commercial crab fishery is the only stable fishery in this small coastal community and any negative impacts to this resource will have a severely detrimental effect on the community and the local economy,” Mr. Jarvis wrote last week to the Smithers Land Office.
A spokesperson for Nai Kun was unavailable as we posted this article.