Thursday, January 25, 2024

CityWest points to Unsanctioned Crab Fishery as cause of recent fibre breaks affecting service to Haida Gwaii

A team from Highlander Marine
Services recover a crab trap as they
work on the CityWest fibre line
between the North Coast and
Haida Gwaii
CityWest will be asking the Federal Government to step up enforcement activities off the east coast of Haida Gwaii, that after  what the Prince Rupert based communication company calls unsanctioned Crabbing led to extensive service interruptions to service for residents of the Island.

CityWest provided an extensive update on the situation on Wednesday, (providing the photo left) which shows a crab trap retrieved that was on top of the CityWest fibre line at the ocean floor.

The advisory which was posted to the CityWest Social media stream and website also highlights the steps that those fishing the area had gone to cover their tracks.

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.

Towards safeguarding the fibre connection in the future, CityWest notes of its efforts with MLA Jennifer. Rice and MP Taylor Bachrach to provide additional protection to the vital connection to Haida Gwaii 

We have appealed to the government to step up enforcement activities to protect the line in order to safeguard and improve connectivity to Haida Gwaii. 

We are working diligently with the province of B.C., MLA Rice, MP Bachrach, and the federal government, to upgrade the existing fibre line with an armoured line to protect it from crabbing and fishing activities. We also have a provincially supported CRTC application to build a secondary fibre cable to Haida Gwaii, to serve as a full-service backup link to the existing cable. 

While we work to strengthen the Connected Coast Network, we are also in the process of doubling the capacity of our existing on-island backup link. This will give our customers faster speeds and allow you to use your Stream TV services during a fibre break.

The Full Advisory for Haida Gwaii residents is available below:

As they note, the outage has been an extensive one, dating back to the Christmas holiday period, CityWest anticipates a return to full service shortly.

The post to the CityWest Facebook page has generated a significant amount of commentary, from sympathy for their plight, praise for the work and a range of technical questions and areas of note related to account reimbursement for the outage.

More notes from CityWest can be reviewed from our archive page here.

Items of interest from Haida Gwaii can be explored here.


  1. Questions:

    1) why run a fibre cable through commercial crab fishing grounds? There must’ve been another route considered?

    2) why wouldn’t they install an armoured line in the first place to save this grief?

    3) how wide is their right of way? I’m sure crab gear can drift with the tides, can they not just increase their berth?

  2. Unforeseen, but the project should have factored in the associated risk.

    Create a restricted area like they have in the Atlantic for marine animals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

    If vessels go in that area, fine them up to $250k, liable up to $1 million or put them in jail for 18 months.

    This would be requested through federal bodies like fisheries and transport. Considering the track record of our federal MP (who is a transport critic) any change will be years if not decades away.

    1. CityWest is spread too thin and doesn’t have the equipment/manpower to manage a provincial wide undersea network. Things are great when there are no problems, things will not always be great and the city taxpayers are on the hook.

    2. Amazing how all problems suddenly can be solved by electing another MP! Let's have a look at Ellis Ross track record.

    3. Amazing how active our Facebook MP is after the conservative announcement.
      A year to get Atlin their post office back?
      No response in months about federal DMAF for Rupert?
      Typical NDP response, a we hear you social media post, a letter is written. A social media post about the letter is posted.
      Then we never hear back from the members of government that work for us.

    4. I don't see a Poilievre government committed to reducing expenditures and the federal footprint generally will be necessarily coming to CityWest's rescue by subsidizing an armoured cable. I also don't think that it can be assumed that Liberal programs like DMAF will be funded at the same level or necessarily even continue. An $82 million request by the City is not a small ask that hopefully will be approved in whole or part before the change in government. As for the Atlin post office, Canada Post ceased to be a government department in 1981.

    5. You don’t think a conservative government will reduce spending and reduce the size of government?

      Have you googled “canadian government spending”?

      The Minister of Public Services and Procurement oversees Canada Post, the same department that pays out PILT.

      Citywest and Canada Post are great examples of enterprises that are propped up by taxpayers, and no matter how they perform. Taxpayers will always prop them up

      The difference between the two is at least you can see how bad Canada Post is doing.
      Good luck ever seeing a full annual report out of Citywest, civic accounting methods do not require it.

    6. My first sentence is not well written and I can see how you read it other than as intended. A Poilievre government will reduce spending, probably massively. He has said that municipal funding will be linked to federal policy goals, particularly for housing. There may be a rude awakening for municipalities like this one that have historically under-invested in infrastructure rather than increase taxes, while tying up over $47 million in an under-performing telecom.

      Those who think that a Poilievre government will intervene to subsidize an armoured fibre line to Haida Gwaii or to pay for more fisheries patrols should be prepared for disappointment. I'm okay with that. If CityWest is not adequately capitalized to secure its own assets it should be sold to a company that has the wherewithal. And yes, good luck on getting a full financial report out of CityWest.