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A group of Northumberland Strait fishermen say they will block a survey boat hired by the Northern Pulp mill from entering the strait to do work on a proposed new route for an effluent pipe.

Darryl Bowen, a fisherman from Caribou, N.S., said in a telephone interview on Monday he will make sure his boat or another fishing vessel is placed in front of the survey vessel if it attempts to leave Pictou’s harbour in northeastern Nova Scotia.

The 48-year-old fisherman says his group has a number of fishing boats available to move quickly to block the survey vessel if it attempts to leave.

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“If they try to get out, we’re just going to keep getting in front of them so that they can’t get by us,” he said, adding there were six or seven boats in the one-kilometre long harbour mouth.

“They won’t get by … We’ll block them,” said Bowen.

However, a spokeswoman for Northern Pulp said the survey vessel isn’t currently in the water, and that the company doesn’t plan on doing anything that will jeopardize the safety of its contractor’s employees.

Kathy Cloutier, director of communications at the mill’s parent company, Paper Excellence Canada, said in an e-mail that, “Safety within Paper Excellence Canada and its facilities is paramount.”

“When situations occur, we will seek guidance and work with authorities to ensure the safety of all involved.”

She said there have been discussions over the past week between Northern Pulp, contract survey crew and leadership of fisheries groups, and she added, “the information survey crew members are seeking to obtain is data that may be of benefit to various interested parties.”

Bowen said the protest by fishermen from several ports started Monday but will continue as long as necessary to prevent the survey from taking place.

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He said the view of the fishermen is that it’s safer to prevent the surveyors from entering the strait than having the vessel go out on open water and be confronted by hostile fishing boats, as occurred recently.

“The last time they got out there, we went up (to them) and it didn’t take long for them to run back to shore,” said Bowen, who fishes lobster, crab and scallops.

An RCMP spokesperson said Monday they were aware of the fishermen’s statements.

“We are monitoring the situation,” said Cpl. Jennifer Clarke.

Though the Northern Pulp mill near Pictou provides key jobs for the town of about 3,000 residents, its pipeline plan has raised concerns about the impact on the lobster fishery, other seafood businesses and protected areas along the coast.

Under provincial legislation, the mill has until 2020 to replace its current waste water treatment plant in Boat Harbour, and Premier Stephen McNeil has confirmed he is sticking with that deadline.

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After years of pumping 70 million litres of treated waste daily into lagoons on the edge of the nearby Pictou Landing First Nation reserve, Northern Pulp wants to pipe it directly into the strait that separates Nova Scotia from P.E.I.

The lagoons contain nearly 50 years worth of toxic waste, which former Nova Scotia environment minister Iain Rankin has called one of the worst cases of environmental racism in Canada.

Paper Excellence, of Richmond, B.C., has said the mill and its 300 employees will be out of work unless it can build a pipeline to the strait.

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