Monday, January 29, 2024

Area A Crab Association challenges CityWest Accusations on Hecate Strait fibre cable issues, notes of 'inaccurate and inflammatory' statements

CityWest's recent statement on reasons for the fibre break between the 
North Coast and Haida Gwaii is not sitting well with
the Area A Crab Association

The Relationship between the local crab industry and the City of Prince Rupert owned communication company CityWest, is resembling that of a pot of Hecate Strait caught crabs on a high boil.

That as the Association which represents the commercial crab industry on the North Coast responds to the recent statement from CityWest related to their fibre break. 

With the Area A Crab Association calling out the Prince Rupert based Communication company for a number of what they describe as inaccurate and inflammatory comments towards their industry.

As we outlined last week, on Wednesday January 24th CityWest through a statement on their website  and through their social media stream, outlined the findings of their review of the fibre optic breaks that have disrupted CityWest service to Haida  Gwaii for over one month now.

With CityWest noting that the: subsea fiber optic cable, stretching from Tlell to Bonilla Island, has suffered four distinct breakages due to unsanctioned crab fishing activities on a critical infrastructure right-of-way. 

The Route of the CityWest fibre from Bonilla Island to Tlell
from CityWest information pages

Key to the CityWest Statement was how they viewed the fishing activity in the area of the Fibre Break.

Investigations have shown that a handful of fishing vessels are deliberately disabling their AIS beacons, making it impossible to track their activities on the water (see image - marine vessel charts indicate an absence of fishing vessels in the vicinity. 

However, crabbing pots are observed directly on top of the Haida Gwaii subsea fiber line and right-of-way). We have been informed, that by law, these vessels are required to keep their AIS systems in operation for at least 30 minutes immediately before departure and for the entire duration of the voyage. 

These unfortunate events seem to only be caused by a small group of less than a handful of crabbing vessels who continue to ignore the right-of-way and directly affect connectivity for all our customers on Haida Gwaii, causing significant damages to all involved.

The CityWest statement was a topic that gained a response from Skeena Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach

MLA Jennifer Rice, who was on Haida Gwaii last week has not as of yet offered up a comment related to the CityWest review of the situation or its accusations..

The detailed update from CityWest that Mr. Bachrach references however, is not sitting well with the Area A Crab President Khan Shantz, who issued a two page statement on behalf of the association on Friday afternoon.

Among the comments which you can review in full below, the Association cites a number of inaccuracies in the CityWest statement, noting they have not correctly cited the requirements related to the Automatic Identification System,  as well as their outline of where the crab traps set by the Association are placed.

The statement notes of the many circumstances related to waters in that region that make the body of water in Hecate Strait the 4th most dangerous marine area in the world and the particular challenges to the areas of note for both the crab fleet and the CityWest fibre line.

The Open Letter also expresses disappointment at the City West accusations on recklessly causing damage.

With Mr. Shantz noting of the past efforts that the association has taken with CityWest towards the decision making on the fibre route; observing how a route proposed by the Area A Crab association to follow an established BC Ferries route had been rejected by the CityWest

The letter concludes with the Association reinforcing its commitment to work with CityWest to find a better route for the fibre cable.

That despite what it describes as the errors and inflammatory comments by CityWest.

Click on images above to enlarge

In a follow up correspondence with the North Coast Review, Chelsey Ellis, the Executive Director for the Association provided some additional background to the current differences of opinion on the issue between CityWest and the Area A Crab Association.

Chelsey Ellis, Exec Director
for Area A Crab Assoc.
(from LinkedIn)
First off, noting how the Association was caught by surprise by the CityWest commentary towards their members of last week.

"We were not contacted by anyone at CityWest before, or after they released the statement."

As well, the Executive Director charted some of the approach that they have taken towards where the cable has been placed and how they continue to be available for consultation towards the route.

"We have sent out the alerts CityWest provided about the cable and subsequent reminders. It's a topic at our meetings as a reminder to harvesters. We have always been open and willing to talk and have given extensive expert knowledge of the area."

Despite the apparent lack of a heads up from CityWest and their rather incendiary remarks towards the Association related to the fibre related issues here.  Ms. Ellis while noting of the desire for a retraction to the allegations, also  reiterates their desire to work with the communication company to resolve the issues.

"Given the numerous errors and inflammatory comments made by Citywest, our Association looks forward to an apology to our harvesters and a retraction of the allegations Citywest has made against the members of our fleet. 

We hope to continue an open dialogue with Citywest and are still committed to working productively together on this important project."

So far CityWest has not followed up on their original statement of January 25th, the update one which has generated some significant discussion on their social media stream.

The topic could make for part of a dialogue for City Councillors and the City owned communication asset should they follow up on a request from City Councillor Nick Adey for a presentation to Council and a Q and A session with CityWest officials.

Since that request from Mr. Adey, City Council has received presentations from Magna Engineering the company they are working with on the city's wastewater project; as well as representatives from CrimeStoppers.

There so far is no indication from City Staff if CityWest has been pencilled in for any public sessions ahead on the Council calendar.

More notes related to CityWest can be reviewed here, out archive of items of note from the Fishery can be explored here.


  1. Very interesting CityWest refusing the ferry route. I guess they know better and are not to be questioned. Isn't the CEO of CityWest the same guy that disallowed Telus to put up a cell phone tower?
    Nobody likes losing gear to a ferry. That would have made sense to me.

  2. The decision towards the cell tower you mention was that of City Council NCR

  3. That's a very good letter from the Area A Crab Association that certainly should give CityWest some pause before making further statements or allegations.

  4. The bigger news is that our current City Manager has finally been added to the Citywest website as a board member.

    The Citywest board has two doctors on it and they didn't even get crabby about not being called doctors on the Citywest website.

    1. Do the board of directors receive financial compensation?

    2. In the past there was a management fee transfer between Citywest and the city. Which used to be reported as a line item in city finances.
      But current accounting practices and the absence of a detailed annual report out of Citywest will prevent you from getting an answer to your question.

    3. An FOI request to the City or (or to CityWest although they may not be aware that FIPPA applies to a municipal company) should answer that question. If memory serves, back in Gord Howie's day city managers received $6,000 p.a. for serving on the CityWest board.
      Best to be cautious about "doctor"; it's a reserved title under the Health Professions Act.

  5. If CityWest won the contract for Connected Coast, why, or how did they win? Anyone else?
    Awarding contracts like connected coast, was the intent to create competition? Tax Payers end up paying in taxes or by their phone bill. It’s been nearly 2 months on this outage.
    So the intent now is to get more money for a second armoured cable? Will this be bid on, or is this outside the original scope of the RFP?
    As a tax payer why should I pay twice for something that potentially won a bid in the first place.
    Is there more to learn if an armoured cable is put in place, some other big mistake that will need money for a 3rd cable?
    Isn’t there a saying about a fool with money?