'Can't get five cents': Little Harbour fishermen say wharf has big problems

Roddy Conrad's been fishing out of Little Harbour, N.S., for 28 years. He says over time the wharf's condition has deteriorated to the point where those who fish from it are concerned about their boats and their safety.

Ten boats fish from the wharf near Lockeport. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans owns the structure.

"This one here has a rung missing on top, so your first step's a big one," Conrad told CBC's Information Morning, pointing out a rusted ladder.

"This one here has the first three rungs gone off it. That's how we get aboard our boats — on a wing and a prayer."

Phlis McGregor/CBC

A boulder in the middle of the wharf came off the breakwater during a storm three years ago.

"It's moved probably eight feet in the last two years," said Conrad. "You get another good storm, that's going to be in the harbour, which is going to make it bad for getting in and out. It's going to block us off."

Conrad said timber from under the wharf has gone into the harbour and the debris has damaged his boat.

"It bends your propeller and stalls your engine," said Conrad. "It could bend your shaft. You're talking thousands of dollars of damage."

Roddy Conrad

The fishermen have been lobbying the government to fix the wharf, but they aren't pleased by the response.  

"They throw a little bit of money at you for a little bit of dredge work," said Conrad. "But we need more than dredging. We need stuff done here."  

"It's basically, 'We'll get to you, we'll get to you,' but nothing ever happens," said Kyle Williams, a fisherman who works off the wharf.

"A wharf down here that has millions of dollars worth of product that comes up in the run of the season — between 10 boats and two major lobster plants — and we can't get five cents to put a ladder on the wharf."

In an email, DFO spokesperson Stephen Bornais said the government has placed a weight restriction on the wharf for safety reasons.

He also wrote: "Department's Small Craft Harbours branch is currently working with stakeholders and the local harbour authority on a solution to the infrastructure challenges at Little Harbour."