July 21, 2017
Newfoundland Supreme Court orders assessment for major aquaculture project
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador has ordered a major aquaculture project proposed for Placentia Bay to undergo an environmental assessment after the provincial government earlier gave it the go ahead without one.
The Atlantic Salmon Federation had challenged the government’s 2016 decision, citing concerns about the possible impact on wild salmon stocks.
Judge Gillian Butler said in her decision that Perry Trimper, who was the environment minister at the time, lacked the jurisdiction to release the project from environmental assessment.
“I have found that the minister exceeded his jurisdiction on the release decision,” she wrote in her decision. “The minister lacked jurisdiction to release the project.”
Federation president Bill Taylor said in a statement that the ruling was a significant victory.
“This will be the first environmental assessment of salmon aquaculture in Newfoundland, and perhaps only the second ever in Atlantic Canada,” he said. “Despite the fact this industry has caused permanent damage to Newfoundland’s environment, it has always enjoyed special treatment.”
The provincial government said it had received the court ruling and is reviewing the details of the decision.
The Environment Department is working with Justice to determine the implications of the ruling and how government will proceed.
The proposed project by Grieg NL Nurseries and Grieg NL Seafarms would be the largest salmon aquaculture project in Canada.
The federation said a study by Fisheries and Oceans shows that many rivers on Newfoundland’s south coast already have hybrid salmon as a result of escaped farm salmon breeding with wild populations.
The area for the proposed project has no existing aquaculture and Butler said the project required the highest level of environmental assessment.
The federation is concerned about the effects of open pen salmon aquaculture on wild salmon populations, adding that the project could be significantly delayed as a comprehensive environmental assessment is carried out.