According to the Guardian newspaper in Charlottetown, total funds allocated for the 11 fishing ports in Canada’s smallest province is $3,317.800 (Can).

It was in the mid-1990s that the federal department of fisheries in Ottawa suggested ports set up their own harbor authorities to take care of daily maintenance of the wharves. Norman Peters, chair of the Rustico Harbor Authority, remembers feeling there was a tad of [political] blackmail shoved in. “If you didn’t take them over, well, you kind of got by passed (for funding). But if you became a harbor authority you were in line to get some help.”

He says the wharves were in a mess and fishermen were reluctant to take them over.

Day-to-day operation means harbor authorities are responsible for electricity and water and any smaller repairs. The bigger repairs mean lobbying DFO consistently, explained Peters.

“Some wharves have been left for 40-50 years and most are in a state that they all need major repairs,” he said. He points out that there could be a number of planks on a slip that have fallen where the boats come in, or where stringers and cross stringers are gone. In some cases government makes an offer to pay 80 percent on a project, with a 20 percent local share. “We still have the 80-20 and any project over $50,000 has to be okayed by Ottawa.”

Peters points out that it is not so long ago that Rustico Harbor received around $150,000 for a range light replacement. “If you lose the range light, you lose the harbor,” he says.

Peters says PEI wharfs are always clambering for help, and as chair [of the Harbor Authority] he notes, “You can get burnt out.”

With 36 seasonal boats depending on Rustico wharf, as well as tuna fishing, deep-sea charters and pleasure boats, getting their fair share of the $3.3 million is crucial.

Frederick Butruille, Corporate Communications Manager with Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in Moncton, New Brunswick, points out that money still comes to the harbors on priority system basis.

He explains that the harbor authority makes requests to its local DFO and they in turn pass on the concerns to the federal government. “It goes by priority, depending on needs, or importance of those needs,” says Butruille. Funding from Ottawa is ongoing and some harbors may need dredging on an annual basis.

He says DFO looks at the importance of the fishery in that particular harbor, and just how many boats use the harbor.

– Kathy Birt