Illegal fishing near dam created safety concerns, spokesperson says
An influx of unauthorized elver harvesters prompted Nova Scotia Power to shut down one of its hydro dams last month, and the facility remains on reduced hours because of ongoing illegal fishing at the site.
The hydro dam in Head of St. Margarets Bay, at the mouth of North East River, has been the scene of nightly fishing for elvers, before and after the legal fishery was supposedly shut down on April 15.
Elvers, also known as baby eels, are Canada's most valuable fish species by weight, selling for up to $5,000 a kilogram and are shipped live to Asia where they are grown for food.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) was forced to close the elver fishery in the Maritimes because of an unprecedented increase in poaching, which posed a risk to the species and the public.
Nova Scotia Power said the poachers have also created a safety risk as they fish near the hydro dam.
"Due to the proximity of this activity to our generating station on the St. Margarets Bay Hydro System, as well as safety concerns, we shut down generation at this site last month for about three weeks," spokesperson Jackie Foster told CBC News.
Foster said electrical generation has since resumed, but on a smaller scale and for a shorter time throughout the day.
The company has also posted additional signage and has added more security at the site, she said.
"We are monitoring the situation and will continue to take the necessary steps to reduce risk and increase safety at and around our facility," Foster said.
The North East River is one of several assigned by DFO to be fished exclusively by commercial licence holder Atlantic Elver Fishery.
Stanley King of Atlantic Elver Fishery said the company hasn't tried to harvest on the North East River this season because poachers have inundated the area.
He said more than 50 people were on the river when the season opened earlier this spring.
The increase in poaching has prompted Atlantic Elver Fishery and two other Nova Scotia commercial licence holders to accuse DFO of failing to enforce the shutdown.
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