A controversial fish farm in Queens County, Nova Scotia has been given a five year lease renewal in what some say was a test case for the Liberal government's commitment to clean up aquaculture in Nova Scotia.
The Ocean Trout Farms in Port Mouton was one of the first up for renewal since Nova Scotia promised to overhaul the way aquaculture is managed.
Long time opponent, Ruth Smith, says the site's shallow water and weak currents make for poor flushing and leads to persistent pollution problems.
Smith says that one condition would have disqualified it from renewal had the government followed the advice of an independent panel released last year.
"We were very deeply disappointed," she said. " It says our concerns have not been taken seriously."
The renewal was actually approved in April but disclosed late last week when a new government website went live as part of a commitment to transparency.
On Tuesday, Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Colwell defended the renewal.
"The moratorium has not been lifted. This is an existing site," he said. "The sites are typically renewed unless there has been something desperately wrong which in this case they haven't done that. We are doing all sorts of research and monitoring around that."
Colwell says he is aware of vocal opposition to the site, which has been used as a fish farm under different owners for 20 years.
Good news for Ocean Trout Farms
He says eventually it will have to operate under new regulations.
"We've got to let business know that once we give them a site, unless they do something wrong, and our new regulations are really going to tie that down a whole lot more than they do today," he said.
"They are going to have to agree to renewal because they got order fish, they got to do financing."
Smith does not agree.
"Regulations that the government is going to introduce cannot make a site that is inherently unsuitable into a suitable site," she said.
The lease renewal is some good news for the Ontario owners of Ocean Trout Farms.
Last winter, the fish farm suffered a catastrophic fish kill after cold weather wiped out 99 per cent of the fish. The company said it will restock next spring.