Saturday, September 5, 1998

Sealing area proving costly for fishermen

PEGGY'S COVE (CP) - The search for remains of Swissair Flight 111 is costing Nova Scotia fishermen a small fortune.

At the height of the lucrative bluefin tuna season, no boats are being allowed to work St. Margaret's Bay while it is being sifted for evidence of the crash that killed all 229 people aboard the passenger jet last Wednesday.

The tuna, which sell for as much as $20,000 per fish on the Japanese market, were in the bay in large numbers before the tragedy.

Now, their boats are tied up for an indefinite period of time. Nets and traps sit untended in the broad bay, catching fish and the drifting debris of human disaster.

"I've been told the investigation could go on for at least a year and it may be weeks before we can take our boats out again," said Ray Boutilier of nearby Hackett's Cove, who runs a fishing charter business.

"I think it's going to have lasting effects, especially in my trade. People are scared they might see something .... The fact is when you're fishing, you just don't know what you'll bring up."

Upset with investigators

Many of the fishermen affected are among those who took to the sea in the hours after the crash in hopes of locating survivors.

Now they are upset crash investigators have closed off such a huge section of the rich fishing grounds.

No unauthorized vessels are allowed on the waters of the bay. There is a no-fly zone above it. Travellers and homeowners living along the shore have been asked to stay away from the beaches.

RCMP Sgt. Andre Guertin sees the bay as wrapped in imaginary yellow police tape.

"We are currently and constantly searching for debris along the shoreline," Guertin said. "We're treating it as a crime scene and all the debris and remains we collect are extremely important."

The winds shifted northwest on the weekend, blowing the flotsam of the crash away from land.

"Not even a piece of paper has washed in here," said fisherman Harold McRae, who lives in Indian Harbour. "I don't know what in hell is wrong with (the investigators). The fishermen can't move."

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