Eastern Shore fish farm bid rejected
March 13, 2013 - 12:02pm By BRUCE ERSKINE Business Reporter
Ottawa: Shoal Bay plan posed moderate risk to wild salmon
The province has rejected Snow Island Salmon Inc.’s application to build a fish farm in Shoal Bay.
In doing so, it cited, for the first time, concerns about the risk to wild salmon.
“This was the first time (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) used the term moderate risk to wild salmon,” Sterling Belliveau, fisheries and aquaculture minister, said Wednesday in an interview after announcing his decision.
The federal fisheries department said the proposed Shoal Bay site posed a “low risk to fish habitat” but a “moderate risk to wild Atlantic salmon.”
“This was new wording,” said Belliveau.
He called the 22-month review of the application, which involved provincial and federal government departments, a “rigorous process.”
“From Day 1, we were clear we would not rubber stamp aquaculture leases,” he said. “After reviewing the evidence, I was not satisfied that the science supported approving the site.”
It was the province’s first rejection of a salmon farm lease application in recent memory, government spokeswoman Krista Higdon said.
Snow Island vice-president Shane Borthwick said he was disappointed by the decision.
“It’s a sad day for aquaculture in Nova Scotia,” he said in an interview Wednesday.
Borthwick said the government has turned its back on development on the Eastern Shore.
“It’s as simple as that,” he said, questioning the rationale for the decision.
“It’s not supported by fact,” he said, claiming the area in question isn’t near wild salmon rivers.
Snow Island said in a news release that its Scottish parent company, Loch Duart, will need to determine if it will maintain its operations in the province in light of the government’s decision.
Bill Taylor, president of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, said the province made a “wise and responsible” decision in rejecting the Shoal Bay application.
“All of the scientific data on the impact of open-pen farming on wild salmon points to serious risks,” he said in an interview.
The federation is committed to reviving wild Atlantic salmon stocks.
Belliveau says the decision doesn’t signal a change in the government’s support for fish farms, part of an aquaculture strategy released last year.
“We have been very proactive in trying to promote aquaculture,” he said. “It needs to be done in a sustainable way.”
Snow Island farms 475,000 salmon at Owls Head near Ship Harbour.
The company is waiting for a decision on another lease application in Spry Harbour. It withdrew an application for Beaver Harbour last year.
Snow Island has encountered vocal opposition from the Association for the Preservation of the Eastern Shore, which has commissioned billboards and bus ads criticizing open-pen salmon farms.
Association president Marike Finlay applauded the government’s decision on Shoal Bay Wednesday.
“This is wonderful news,” she said.
Finlay said the association submitted hundreds of documents to government on how Shoal Bay was inappropriate for open-pen aquaculture.
“It is too shallow, too cold, has too little current, is in our coast lobstering grounds and interferes with our tourist industry,” she said.
The association hopes the government will also reject Snow Island’s Spry Harbour lease application as inappropriate.
Belliveau said the province is waiting for a Fisheries and Oceans report on the Spry Harbour proposal.
Borthwick said he had no idea what the government, which he accused of inconsistency, might decide on the Spry Harbour application.