The New Brunswick Environment Department has produced a province-wide coastal zone protection policy, but many Grand Manan residents are feeling more worried than protected.

Among the complaints are the assertion that a “one-size-fits-all” approach won’t work, especially on Grand Manan; concern that the wording is so vague as to make consultations with local people meaningless; and, finally, that the plan will threaten islanders’ livelihoods.

“In a sense, we’re all fishermen here,” said Grand Manan Village Manager Andy Daggett. One way or another, we all rely on fishing whether we’re carpenters or storekeepers.”

He continued, “The vague wording scares us. People here have no idea what anybody’s talking about, no idea what’s involved. We want to know how is this going to affect my life and my livelihood. Any policy that impacts the coast is obviously going to impact our ability to use that coast, directly or indirectly.”

Daggett wondered if local fishermen would be allowed to build their sheds, for example. “Again, the wording is so vague that it could be argued that sheds aren’t ‘coastal essential’ or that wharves aren’t ‘coastal essential,’ ” he says. “Are they going to tell me I don’t need my own wharf; I can just tie up a publidock?”

Paul Jordan, community planner for the provincial Department of Environment and Local Government, said Daggett’s fears about sheds and wharves are unfounded.

“The policy does allow many existing fishing activities to continue,” he said. “Sheds and wharves can be maintained and repaired. Building new wharves and shacks may have to go through review, and any new wharf on crown [government] land, of course, would have to get permission.

“This coastline policy is tied into existing review processes. There haven’t been problems in the past, and I don’t see any problems in the future.”

Asked if the Policy would have impact on the proposed wind farm at Dark Harbour on Grand Manan (WWF Aug. 2004), Jordan replied, “I’m not aware of the exact location of the proposed wind farm. If the wind farm is outside the coastal area and the 30-meter buffer, then the Coastal Areas Protection Policy will not apply to the project. If the project is located in the coastal area or within 30m of the coastal area, then the project would require an exemption from the Department of the Environment and Local Government. Such a project may have to go through a full Environmental Impact Assessment, it is at that time the project would be reviewed with respect to the Coastal Areas Protection Policy.”

Meetings with provincial officials are continuing. As of mid-October, islanders still had unanswered concerns. “It seems that for every question that gets answered, three new questions pop up,” Daggett said. “We have found out that the province’s target date is spring ’05 – the problem is, among a lot of others, who’s going to prosecute any violations. We don’t have the money to take them to court. And there are federal as well as provincial jurisdictions on the shore. I guess the prosecution will come from the one with the deepest pockets.”

Melanie Sonnenberg, project manager for the Grand Manan Fishermen’s Association, also said she was worried about the policy’s “vague” terminology.

“We’re not against protecting the environment,” she said. “We have, in fact, a long-standing commitment to protecting the environment. But this document has not been fully understood by anybody here,” she says. “I’m afraid this is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re concerned about where this is headed. There should have been dialogue long before the document was offered, and there hasn’t been any direct consultation with the Association. If this is implemented the way it is, the hardship will be borne by everybody.”

The policy, following the United Nations Biosphere Reserves, divides coastlines into three categories: “Zone A – the areas closest to the water known as the coastal lands core area; Zone B – the areas beyond Zone A which provide a further buffer; and Zone C – the areas beyond Zone B that form a transition from coastal to inland areas.”