Louisbourg celebrates its relationship with the sea

Louisbourg celebrates its relationship with the sea

David Jala (david.jala@cbpost.com)Published: 18 hours ago


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From giant turtles to shipwrecks, interpretive centre connects visitors with community's marine history and heritage

LOUISBOURG, N.S.

Visitors to Louisbourg now have the opportunity to interact with the seafaring community’s past, present and future.

The Oceans of Opportunity Marine Science and Heritage Centre, aptly located near the waterfront, opened its doors on Thursday to coincide with the first scheduled cruise ship of the season. But, while the MS Fram opted not to enter the harbour due to rough ocean conditions, the new interpretive centre went ahead with its open house as planned.

And, it got the stamp of approval from the many locals who visited the complex of wooden buildings that once housed a market and craft centre but that has been vacant for more than two decades.

“This is cool,” said Harvey Morash, a Louisbourg-based diver, who took some time to try out the virtual reality system that puts the goggled participant in a submersible as it moves around in the waters off Scatarie Island.

Had Morash turned around he would have come face-to-face with a giant leatherback sea turtle. The large reptile isn’t real, but it is made from a cast of a turtle that was caught in a fisherman’s net outside of Louisbourg harbour in 1979 while migrating from the Caribbean to the rich fishing banks of the North Atlantic.

Both the leatherback turtle and the virtual reality machine are located in the centre’s science office where biologists Adam Mugridge and Kurt Simmons are working on a scientific study aimed at reducing the risk of sea creatures, such as right whales and leatherback turtles, becoming entangled in fishing industry nets.

“We’re researching how we can modify fishing gear, what modifications have already been implemented and how new technologies can be used to reduce the risk of entanglement,” explained Adam Mugridge, who is employed by Louisbourg Seafoods Ltd. and serves as the director of the Eastern Nova Scotia Marine Stewardship Society.

The centre, which is a collaboration between the private company and the non-profit organization, also boasts a heritage museum that is presently displaying part of a private collection of artifacts and materials that depict the community’s relationship with the sea.

There is also a functioning laboratory that once complete will give visitors insight into the science behind the fishing industry.

And, there’s more. Louisbourg boat builder Darcy Harte has an onsite workshop where he works on wood vessels in full view of visitors.

“We think the centre will give people real insight into this community and we think it’s really reflective of the town of Louisbourg — not every place has this kind of history and heritage,” said Mugridge.

It’s been estimated that of the approximately 100,000 people that annually visit the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, only a small percentage stop to spend time in the former town that still relies on fishing.

david.jala@cbpost.com

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