Raymond Plourde works with the Ecology Action Centre, one of dozens of groups calling for a moratorium on open pen salmon aquaculture. (CBC)

Dozens of groups, including tourism operators and commercial fishing associations, are calling for a moratorium on open pen salmon aquaculture in Nova Scotia.

"When those huge aquaculture sites go in, that's it," said Christopher Hudson, the president of the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association.

"They're there on that bottom and it's taken over and that's it. There's no sharing with anybody."

The Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association is one of 51 groups urging the provincial government to stop the expansion of open-pen salmon farms.

They submitted a letter to Premier Darrell Dexter on Monday, asking for more public consultation.

"There are potentially significant environmental and economic consequences for tourism, commercial fisheries, coastal water quality, not to mention jeopardizing any rebuilding of the wild Atlantic salmon populations," Lewis Hinks, provincial director of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, said in a statement.

"We are asking the premier to begin to engage meaningfully with coastal communities and to consider replacing the current rapid expansion of net pen salmon aquaculture with more responsible avenues."

Opposition to salmon farms in Nova Scotia has grown since New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture announced a $150-million expansion last year.

The provincial government then approved two salmon farms in St. Marys Bay in the southwestern part of the province, with a plan to stock about 700,000 in each farm.

Since then, Cooke has been charged with using illegal pesticides in New Brunswick after lobsters there were found to have been exposed to cypermethrin, an agricultural pesticide that's illegal to use in Canadian marine environments and toxic to lobsters.

ISA outbreak

The company has also had to destroy three cages of farmed salmon at its Shelburne facility after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed an outbreak of infectious salmon anemia at the commercial farm.

The Ecology Action Centre, which is also part of the coalition calling for the moratorium, said the government needs to look at the environment before moving forward with new aquaculture sites.

"It's government's job to make sure that if we have a growing salmon aquaculture industry in Nova Scotia that it is actually economically, socially and environmentally responsible," said Raymond Plourde, the wilderness co-ordinator at the Ecology Action Centre.

"Another day with disease outbreaks, another day with huge sea lice blooms, another day with tons of crap being allowed to go into the marine environment. What we're saying is it needs to be improved."

In an email, the provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture said the infectious salmon anemia outbreak at the Cooke Aquaculture farm was an isolated incident.

It said the situation was a temporary setback for one particular site with one particular operator.

The department said it takes instances of infectious salmon anemia into consideration when it comes to approving or rejecting new aquaculture leases and licences.