On November 5, 1998, a 26 year-old inshore fisherman who
had occupied fisheries offices and had chained himself to a flag pole at
the Nova Scotia Legislature to protest fishery policies wrote a farewell
note and committed suicide.
His fellow fishermen, who have led the struggle against government policy
to sell the fishery into private hands, are determined to make sure that
he did not die in vain.
The last remaining fish stocks exist in the rich grounds off Cape Sable
Island, but inshore fishermen are being starved out of the fishery while
corporate draggers still pillage the fish under policies of privatization
that are disguised as conservation.
This documentary, Clearing the Waters, looks at the epicentre
of the struggle and possibly the last generation of inshore fishermen in
a place that represents the history of a way of life – Cape Sable
Island, Nova Scotia.
The crisis of the groundfish stocks and government attempts to privatize
the industry have devastated these communities that have no option to the
fishery. Like the outports of Newfoundland, the fishing towns of Cape Sable
Island exist in protected inlets, but have little arable land.
A group of Cape Sable Island fishermen are going court as a result of a
protest fishery in 1997. Five years later, the trial continues. If the fishermen
lose, they face heavy fines and possible jail sentences, which they vow
to serve rather than pay any fine.
With a growing public awareness of the crisis, Cape Sable Island is the
focus, indeed the last remaining core of protest against the destruction,
and they are paying a severe price. The suicide rate on the island is high,
but the activists state that they will never give up the battle that is
heavily stacked against them.
They may yet win both for themselves and for all Canadians.