Atlantic Canada's largest aquaculture company — Cooke Aquaculture — says it has been forced to delay key elements in a $150-million expansion planned for Nova Scotia by several years.
New Brunswick-based Cooke blames a moratorium on new aquaculture sites imposed by the previous New Democratic government in 2013, when it ordered a study of aquaculture.
Cooke's applications for new aquaculture sites have also been on a shelf for two years.
"That part of our business plan has stalled. That's not our doing. That's the nature of the review," says Nell Halse, vice-president of communications for Cooke.
The results of the review, by Dalhousie law professors Meinhard Doelle and Bill Lahey, was issued Tuesday.
Halse says a state-of-the art salmon processing plant promised for Shelburne — and other plans — are now years behind schedule.
"We had hoped everything would be in place for our plant to be open in 2015, but clearly with this tremendous delay, we are not there. We still need additional farm sites and production," she says.
In 2012 the province committed $25 million to help finance a Cooke expansion in Nova Scotia. In addition to a processing plant in Shelburne, the company also planned a new fish hatchery in Digby and an expanded feed mill in Truro.
In order to justify the expansion, Cooke says it needs to double salmon production in Nova Scotia to three million fish in the water.
Nell Halse says the company is still committed to the Nova Scotia expansion but does not know when it will proceed.
"It will definitely be in a few years time … it might be as long as 2018," she said.
Cooke is now urging Nova Scotia's Liberal government to lift the moratorium while it studies the report ordered by the NDP.
One of the report's recommendations is to keep the moratorium in place until tougher rules governing aquaculture are established.
"We need to hear from them, that they are not going to delay this process any further," Halse says.
Nova Scotia says it's still studying that report ordered by the NDP.