Residents of the Eastern Shore have written letters to provincial politicians asking for a moratorium on open pen fish farms. (Karin Cope/Association for the Preservation of the Eastern Shore )

A newly formed association on Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore is asking for a moratorium on open pen aquaculture licenses in the province.

The Association for the Preservation of the Eastern Shore is made up of tourism, business and conservation groups, as well as many residents of the area.

Spokeswoman Marike Finlay said the current method of fish farming poses too much of a threat, especially when there is an on-land alternative.

"We are for closed pen salmon aquaculture which can flourish and which could be set up here and would create employment here and would create a product actually that is environmentally sustainable as well as healthier," she said Sunday.

The group collected thousands of letters to government officials protesting against the proposed salmon farms. More than 130 members of the community met for nearly five hours in the Sheet Harbour Lions Club Friday night.

Finlay said the association plans to request a meeting with Premier Darrell Dexter to push for the moratorium.

The government is considering an application to establish three new aquaculture sites on the Eastern Shore.

The moratorium is more pressing, association member Karin Cope said, since federal authorities placed a Nova Scotia salmon farm under quarantine after a suspected case of a contagious virus was detected a week ago.

"We hope that [Fisheries] Minister Sterling Belliveau, who has the power to enact a moratorium on new licenses in Nova Scotia, will take the threat of Infectious Salmon Anemia in his front yard seriously," she said.

"We are not against all aquaculture by any means. But we would like to see the government of Nova Scotia begin to insist upon closed containment for finfish aquaculture. We have a chance to lead here, rather than to repeat the mistakes — and catastrophes — found in every other site in the world where finfish are farmed in open pen feedlots."

The suspected infection was detected at a farm owned by Cooke Aquaculture by the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Infectious salmon anemia (ISA) is an incurable and destructive virus that affects both wild and farmed salmon. The company destroyed two cages of fish.