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Two sets of fishermen feud over near miss off Ecum Secum

Ecum Secum lobster fisherman Austin Chambers is concerned over escalating tensions in the lobster fishery on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore. AARON BESWICK • THE CHRONICLE HERALD
Ecum Secum lobster fisherman Austin Chambers is concerned over escalating tensions in the lobster fishery on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore. AARON BESWICK • THE CHRONICLE HERALD - The Chronicle Herald

“Somebody’s going to be killed,” Austin Chambers hollered at the Mountie, pounding his fist into an open hand.

The officer from the Sherbrooke detachment had been waiting on one of Ecum Secum’s wharves Wednesday afternoon to speak to Chambers about an escalating feud over lobster grounds between two sets of fishermen.

Chambers arrived at the wharf in a rage, with lobster to unload and a story to tell.

“He came right at us, would have split us right in two,” said Chambers.

Meanwhile, at a wharf four kilometres away in Marie Joseph, Eric Pace had a different version of what transpired earlier Wednesday on the lobster grounds off Ecum Secum.

“I was showing my port light, which gives me the right of way,” said Eric Pace. “He cut right in front of me. He should learn the rules of the water.”

The Chronicle Herald has a video, on its website, recorded of the near miss by a member of Chambers’ crew.

Pace was loading 55 new traps aboard his boat to replace the ones he alleges were cut sometime Tuesday or Wednesday.

“That’s 10 or 12 thousand dollars right there,” said Pace.

“They should put them off the water.” The dispute between Pace and Chambers follows onebetween Chambers’ son and a different Marie Joseph fisherman.

On Sunday morning, Terrence Chambers’ boat was allegedly rammed. Terrence is Austin’s son.

A fisherman from Marie Joseph is facing charges of mischief causing danger to life and uttering threats over the incident.

Then on Monday evening, the RCMP responded to an assault in Marie Joseph. 

“Police believe this event is related to the boat ramming event,” reads a statement released by the RCMP.

“The victim sustained injuries requiring transport to hospital.”

Terrence Chambers was arrested and appeared in Antigonish provincial court on Tuesday facing a charge of assault causing bodily harm.

Later that day, a 27-year-old man turned himself in to police and now faces the same charge.

The RCMP has since also charged a 52-year-old from Ecum Secum with assault causing bodily harm in relation to Monday’s attack.

“Following the initial investigation, police have determined that the dispute which led to this incident stemmed from recent changes to fishing licences in the area, although all parties involved were fishing legally,” reads the RCMP news release.

Ecum Secum is the border

between two large fishing zones — Lobster Fishing Area (LFA) 32 to the south and Lobster Fishing Area 31B to the north.

Austin Chambers and Eric Pace both fish in LFA 31B.

The Marie Joseph fisherman charged in Sunday’s boat-ramming incident fishes in LFA 32.

The Chambers family had recently purchased a licence at the far end of LFA 32 from a fisherman in Three Fathom Harbour, 143 kilometres away by road from Ecum Secum. The law allows a licence to be fished anywhere within its LFA.

However, in this territorial fishery of a bottom-feeding species that doesn’t migrate any great distance, it is customary for a licence bought in a community to be fished near where it had been fished before.

Terrence Chambers sought to start fishing the licence from Ecum Secum rather than Three Fathom Harbour.

The ensuing conflict has been the talk of this

small community from which 35 lobster boats are based.

“Buddy, there are 15 lobster wars going on around here,” said one former fisherman who didn’t want his name used. “You’re only here to write about the one.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Tanya Chambers watched her husband telling the RCMP officer about the latest incident on the water.

“I’ve been crying all day,” she said. “I hope you never have to watch your boys go through anything like this.” The RCMP officer invited Chambers to come to the station and file a formal complaint after he’d finished landing his lobster.

Chambers said he would.

But on Thursday morning at 5 a.m., he’ll be back at his traps.

Eric Pace will be there, too.

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