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Adam Randell
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Area politicians express concerns over St. Anthony Coast Guard Radio closure

The St. Anthony Coast Guard Radio Station is scheduled to close in 2015, and area politicians are voicing their concerns now, in the hope that federal government will rescind the decision. Pictured, from the left, are St. Anthony Mayor Ernest Simms, Liberal MP Gerry Byrne and NDP MHA Christopher Mitchelmore.

Plans to have St. Anthony Coast Guard Radio (MCTS St. Anthony) closed by March of 2015, isn’t sitting too well with area residents and politicians.

Those concerns were expressed during a press conference held earlier today.

St. Anthony fisherman Steve Mitchelmore took to the podium with one clear message: the St. Anthony Coast Guard Radio Station needs to remain open because it saves lives.

The St. Anthony fisherman was sealing, on May 6, when he got stranded on the ice near the Grey Islands.

He was experiencing long range radio problems at the time.

But because he had been in communication with the Coast Guard Radio staff earlier in the day, it was quickly noticed that he was overdue so action was taken.

His lateness was called in. Because of the earlier conversation with the St. Anthony operator he was quickly located and airlifted to safety.

“I’m still here, my boat is not,” he said. “I went searching for my boat afterwards and there’s not a sign to be found. They saved my life”

Mitchelmore later told the Northern Pen that the talk of moving services out of the area is causing a lot of concern for fishermen.

“St. Anthony staff know the people they are serving, they know different names and locations, they know the area. I was overdue, it was picked up right away and the search was on.

“Because Goose Bay is so far away, you can’t build that kind of relationship, the service is located where it’s needed most, and it should stay in St. Anthony.”

 

The same wave

Michelmore’s story was part of a news conference held by Merv Wiseman, the outspoken retired Marine Rescue Sub-Centre worker, and area politicians.

Political preference aside, Mayor Ernest Simms, NDP MHA Christopher Mitchelmore and Liberal MP Gerry Byrne stood with Wiseman to express the need to rescind the decision to close the station.

Wiseman said the station is significant to the area when it comes to mariner safety and guiding Trans-Atlantic shipping.

“Seventy per cent of all search and rescue cases in Newfoundland and Labrador is attributed to fishing vessels being in distress, and fishing is synonymous with St. Anthony and the surrounding area,” Wiseman said.

He also pointed to the fact that there is public consultation surrounding the closures has not taken place.

“There is a statutory requirement for federal government to engage the public in a formal process of disclosure and debate around safety issues affecting the people operating in a maritime environment…we have not had that debate.”

From the politician perspective, the three parties – municipal, provincial and federal – claim that the decision looks at saving money instead of lives, and will continue to press government for answers.

In the meantime, Wiseman told the Pen, residents need to get loud.

He said the biggest thing that needs to take place, is getting in contact with politicians and media outlets.

“The stories of how effective St. Anthony Coast Guard Radio has been, needs to get out because the stories are there and the statistics are there,” he said. “But unfortunately it remains a statistic until people step forward and give the stories a face.”

 

See more in Monday’s edition of the Northern Pen.

 

info@northernpen.ca

Organizations: Coast Guard, St. Anthony Coast Guard Radio Station, Marine Rescue Sub-Centre

Geographic location: St. Anthony, Grey Islands, Goose Bay Newfoundland and Labrador

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