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ASF Contemplates Further Court Challenge

UNDERCURRENT NEWS

Canadian wild salmon group contemplates court challenge over Placentia Bay decision
By Jason Huffman Nov. 28, 2018

The Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) says it is considering extending its fight against the massive farmed salmon project planned for Newfoundland & Labrador's Placentia Bay in a provincial court.

The province's Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment (DMAE) notified the pro-wild salmon group in a Nov. 23 letter that it has rejected its appeal of the environmental impact statement (EIS) submitted in May for the 33,000 metric ton salmon farm planned for the southeast coast of Newfoundland by Ocean Choice International (OCI) and Grieg Newfoundland Salmon (Grieg NL).

ASF had argued that the EIS for what is expected to be one of the largest concentrations of salmon in Canada was “patently deficient” because it was not “rigorous, reasonable, balanced or transparent”. However, in the letter, signed by DMAE minister Graham Letto, the agency argued that the legal process was “strictly followed” and a “rigorous evaluation of potential impacts” was delivered.

The letter listed more than 30 studies of wildlife and socio-economic impacts as well as ice dynamic and ocean current studies cited in the development of the project and outlined eight areas for which future environmental effects will be followed, including the performance of sea cages, interactions of escaped farmed salmon and wild salmon, and the water quality at the hatchery, The Telegram, a Newfoundland newspaper, reports.

The OCI and Grieg NL project's EIS was “subjected to a robust examination, including scrutiny by a federal-provincial environmental assessment committee”, the letter maintained.

“The minister at the time (Perry Trimper) was of the opinion, based on all the information presented to him, that the EIS was not deficient, and I agree with his position on that,” Letto said.

ASF spokesperson Neville Crabbe said his group is "currently weighing our options" but considering a further appeal to the Newfoundland & Labrador Supreme Court.

"It was certainly no surprise to us that the appeal was rejected given the previous actions of the provincial government to push this ahead," Crabbe told Undercurrent in an email response. "The real value is in seeing the minister’s reasoning. Nothing in his reply letter actually addresses the concerns we raised."

Crabbe points to a critical review of the EIS written by Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans in June. The federal agency commented that the "EIS is lacking in the sections dealing specifically with impacts on the local and broader environment and the conclusions inconsistent with existing information".

Also, the wild salmon group has asked to see the final recommendations of the Provincial Review Committee to DMAE, as it believes the group might've been overruled by Letto in his decision, he said.

"We believe, should we pursue further action in this matter, that our case is very strong, especially given DFO’s review and if the review committee did in fact ask the EIS to be returned for further work," Crabbe said.

OCI and Grieg NL officials told Undercurrent in October that they were looking forward to making progress on installing their net pens in Placentia Bay after receiving, in September, what was thought to be the final go-ahead from authorities. The project is expected to deliver as many as seven million salmon per year after an eight-year ramp up.

Ground was broken in 2016 for the project’s hatchery, OCI CEO Martin Sullivan told Undercurrent. The firms aim to stock with eggs in late 2019, before the salmon head to net pens in the water as smolt in the fall of 2020. The first harvest should take place in late fall 2021, he said.

"The plan is to ramp up over five years, to the 30,000t mark," Sullivan said. "It will probably just be 5,000t or so in the first year; we want to make sure it's alright, approach it cautiously before you put too many fish in the sea, as it's a new farming area."

Contact the author jason.huffman@undercurrentnews.com