St. John's lawyer suing province over Placentia Bay aquaculture project
Owen Myers says province made a mistake releasing the project without environmental impact statement
CBC News Posted: Aug 17, 2016 2:16 PM NT
A St. John's lawyer is taking the province to court over its release of a multi-million dollar proposed aquaculture project from environmental assessment.
In July, the province announced that the $250 million project by Grieg NL Seafarms Ltd. was released from further provincial environmental assessments, clearing a big hurdle for the proposal that would transform Placentia Bay into one of the largest aquaculture operations in the country. In addition to 11 sea cage sites in the bay, the project includes a $75-million hatchery proposed for Marystown.
Owen Myers, a lawyer who has been practicing for almost 30 years, has filed the lawsuit as a private citizen, in the hopes of seeing that decision made by Minister of Environment and Conservation Perry Trimper quashed.
"I do think that Minister Trimper made a very big mistake releasing this without a full EIS [environmental impact statement], which allows the public to really have a reasonable and decent chance to participate in public hearings and debate this," Myers told CBC Radio's The Broadcast.
Myers is concerned the technology Grieg will use is not yet scientifically proven and that this expansion could "wipe out" salmon stocks in the area.
"It seems to me totally unimaginable that a project with so many unknowns, and there are so many unsubstantiated statements made by the proponent, that the minister just doesn't say 'Look, this needs a full EIS,'" he said.
"At the end of the day if the minister wants to approve the project, well that's in the minister's discretion. But just to blow it through without properly complying with the legislation I think is something, hopefully, I can convince the court to set aside."
Questions within the industry
The executive director of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association said he is also hearing questions about the proposed project.
"As an industry we fully support expansion of farming seafood in Newfoundland and Labrador, whether it's mussels, oysters, clams, trout, cod or Atlantic salmon," said Mark Lane.
"But we also support thorough research development, first and foremost,[and] stabilization and the sustainable growth of the industry."
Lane said he's also hearing concerns within the industry about the proposed hatchery technology and its style of net pens, which would be new to Newfoundland and Labrador. Other questions include how the Icelandic sterile fish Greig plan's to use will cope in the waters of Placentia Bay and whether or not there is room in the market for more salmon coming from Newfoundland and Labrador alone.
Lane said the province's industry is currently producing about 20,000 tonnes of salmon and that Grieg's project would add upwards of 30-25,000 tonnes.
In its release from further environmental assessment, the government listed several conditions, including that only triploid Atlantic salmon — a genetically modified, sterile fish — be used and the company must submit annual progress reports.
In a statement to CBC, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture said the government is reviewing an updated business plan from Grieg.
"There are several steps that must take place before the conditions of the memorandum of understanding are reached," the statement said.
"With the environmental assessment and regulatory process now complete, work is underway to start the aquaculture licensing process. This will include a thorough review of the proposed site and hatchery. The Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture is awaiting formal site applications for the proposed marine farm sites from the company. This license review will include input from municipal, provincial and federal governments."