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LETTER: This isn’t us versus forestry industry

Imagine you own a coffee shop. It’s going well. You have employees, and are turning a profit in your hometown. Now, imagine the property next door is bought by a daycare operator. They set up business, and you see families coming and going, and heck, they even stop in for coffee once in a while – win-win! But then, one morning you find dirty diapers dumped on the sidewalk in front of your business. And it continues. Customers start to go elsewhere, they don’t like the smell or the way it changes their image of your products. Heck, they even have concerns over the safety of consuming coffee from a shop with dirty diapers piled in front of it every morning. Your business is now at risk.

Now, if you protest, and ask the daycare to stop, does this mean you’re anti-child? Does it mean you don’t think working moms should have a safe place to leave their children when they go to work? Should you clean it up yourself? Should the losses to your business’s bottom line and reputation be your problem? I think any reasonable person would say no.

Now think about Northumberland Strait lobster fishermen’s concerns over Northern Pulp’s plans to dump toxic effluent into the ocean having direct impact on their livelihoods. This issue is not about fishermen versus forestry workers. This is asking Northern Pulp not dump their garbage in our place of business.

There is a lot at stake, more than people realize, but one of our best marketing tools in Europe and Asia is that our lobster come from clean waters. We are producing a food product, so it matters that they are seen as safe to eat.

Let’s put it in perspective: on May 20, 2003, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announces ONE black Angus cow from northern Alberta had been found to have bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease). The United States immediately closes its border to Canadian beef and cattle. About 40 countries follow suit. Thousands of small- and medium-sized beef producers went bankrupt, and the beef industry never fully recovered.

Now think of the nightmare if ONE lobster caught close to the effluent outpour, or one that travelled from there (they can travel as much as 250kms a year) ends up making someone sick or is tested and found to contain toxins. Disaster. And make no mistake: it wouldn’t be a Pictou Co. lobster nor a Gulf of St. Lawrence lobster; it would be a CANADIAN lobster. The effects would decimate the entire lobster industry in Canada, worth billions to our economy on the east coast, affecting 30,000 jobs in Nova Scotia alone.

Northern Pulp would have you believe they are all about preserving jobs in Pictou Co., that these fishermen hate the pulp industry and are trying to cause closure of their plant. All we really want is Northern Pulp not to dump their trash on our doorstep. And there is a solution, a closed-loop system where effluent is recycled back into the plant and reused. Yes it might cost a bit more to implement – but isn’t our $1.2 billion dollar lobster industry worth a bit more?

And then, of course, there’s the small matter of the environment.

Susan Beaton

Commercial lobster fisher, Gulf of St. Lawrence

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