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NS Residents Concerned about Salmon Farm Expansion

CBC NEWS - NOVA SCOTIA

Residents concerned about salmon farm expansion near Liverpool

Cooke Aquaculture is holding a public meeting on Tuesday to share information, address concerns

Frances Willick CBC News Posted: Oct 29, 2018 6:00 AM AT

Some residents in the Liverpool area are worried about a possible expansion of Cooke Aquaculture's salmon farm in Liverpool Bay on the South Shore.

The provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture has granted Kelly Cove Salmon, which is owned by Cooke, an option to apply for new fish farm sites in the bay just outside Liverpool, N.S.

Cooke has owned and operated a fish farm there since 2011. The company has not yet applied for a new site, but is currently collecting information about the area and holding meetings with the community.

The company will host a public meeting on Tuesday at the Queens Place Emera Centre in Liverpool at 4 p.m. It made a presentation to the Region of Queens council last Tuesday.

Community concerns

Brian Muldoon lives just steps from Beach Meadows Beach, and can see Cooke's farm from his back door. He's worried about the possibility of diseases at the farm and how an expansion would affect the water, plants and other organisms nearby.

Muldoon held a meeting for local residents at his house on Sunday to discuss strategies for fighting the expansion.

"I will protest," he said. "I've done it before. I will hold signs up on the street and let everyone know."

Muldoon called the pens and automatic feeder that's "lit up like a bloody Christmas tree" an eyesore in an otherwise beautiful spot.

"We've got pristine beaches and beautiful rocks," he said. "Our backyard is like a mini Peggys Cove. It's gorgeous."

Coun. Brian Fralic said he will attend Tuesday's meeting to get more information, but he has reservations about the project.

Based on the company's presentation to council, he understands the farm currently has 400,000 salmon, and the expansion could boost that number to over a million.

Fralic wonders what happens to the food and feces generated by a farm that size. "If that's not gathered in the pen, then where does it go? And it obviously, in my mind, goes to the beaches."

'A questionable record'

Marine biologist Inka Milewski has studied the effects of fish farming on the South Shore.

The Dalhousie University research associate said Cooke has had problems at its current site in Liverpool Bay, including infectious salmon anemia, high sulphide levels in sediment and "superchill," which is when fish blood freezes due to extreme cold.

"The current site there has got a really questionable record," Milewski said.

Milewski said shallow bays with basins and weak currents, such as many spots along the South Shore, are not ideal for fish farms because the waste accumulates more easily.

She said the federal and provincial regulations for finfish aquaculture are inadequate.

"The criteria for where these fish farms are more suitable needs to be more rigorously scrutinized," she said.

No adverse effects, company says

Joel Richardson, Cooke's spokesperson, said there have been salmon aquaculture sites in Liverpool Bay since 2002 without adverse effects. The company, the province and federal regulators monitor the sites to make sure the sea floor is clean, he said.

"We are committed to the long-term social and environmental well-being of the marine environment on which we rely," Richardson said in an emailed statement.

If Cooke does apply for a new site, it would not be stocked until 2021.

The current site in Liverpool Bay employs 10 people full time, and Richardson said the company's operations provide spinoff jobs in many other sectors. The number of additional jobs from a possible expansion would depend on the details of the expansion, which haven't yet been determined, he said.

Over the next five years, Cooke could spend upwards of $500 million on projects in Atlantic Canada, said a statement from the company.

A spokesperson for the provincial Fisheries Department said the province is "committed to sustainably and responsibly growing aquaculture so it can create jobs and economic opportunities while protecting the environment."

The option granted to Cooke is the first one for salmon aquaculture under a new regulatory framework that came into effect three years ago.