Timeline of proposed aquaculture expansion deemed too fast
Fishers, biologists calling for more public consultation
Monday is the deadline for public comment on a proposed, $75 million salmon hatchery in Marystown, one that has divided opinions in the community and far beyond.
Norwegian company Grieg Seafarms is planning a major expansion of Newfoundland and Labrador's aquaculture industry with a state-of-the-art facility, the largest in Canada, and sea cages in Placentia Bay and Long Harbour.
Grieg Nurseries NL Ltd's proposal on the hatchery is undergoing an environmental assessment.
The sooner government approves the project the better for Jack Brenton, who works in the construction industry and who welcomes a new salmon hatchery that could mean up to 200 full-time and part-time jobs.
"Anytime a new industry can be attracted to your area, I mean, it's just plus, plus, plus for the region," Brenton said. "Marystown is open for business.... how could you not be positive?"
But many don't see the expansion as a positive move and they want the province to slow down.
'Feels like we're getting pushed out'
Paul Mulroney is one of them. He's been fishing lobster, crab and cod in Placentia Bay for 25 years.
"I don't think there was much effort put into [deciding] the places where they were putting these farms," said Mulroney.
He thinks there should have been public meetings and a lot more consultation with fishers.
"It's going to interfere with a bit of our crabbing ground … [It] feels like we're getting pushed out."
Keith Sullivan, the president of the Fish Food and Allied Workers Union, agrees.
"We're really upset at the lack of consultation," said Sullivan, who is calling on the provincial government to extend the Nov. 9 deadline for public comment on the proposed hatchery.
"That deadline has got to be moved back so we can have some time for reasonable conversation so everyone understands what the proposal is and allow reasonable time to have our voices be heard," said Sullivan.
'Going the way of the dinosaur'
Salmon anglers and outfitters have been voicing their concerns on CBC Radio's The Broadcast, as have fish biologists.
Alex Morton, a British Columbia biologist, is vocal opponent of ocean-based aquaculture. "The farms themselves pollute the area that they're in because they don't contain their waste... no other farmer could do this in Canada," said Morton.
She's been hearing about the proposed expansion in Newfoundland and Labrador and is advising careful consideration.
"To have your government investing in it, they're just not up to date on what is happening," she said in an interview.
"This industry is going the way of the dinosaur. Nobody is going to tolerate this kind of pollution for much longer. There are better ways to do it."
Could a land-based model work?
Morton and others are advocating a land-based approach where fish are raised in closed containment systems away from the ocean to protect wild fish.
Cyr Couturier, president of Newfoundland and Labrador's Aquaculture Industry Association, says land-based aquaculture isn't a realistic model for companies.
"You can't do it profitably," he said.
"In a totally closed system, you have to use lots of energy which is environmentally costly, of course, and you have to use huge amounts of fresh water to produce these fish on land based," says Couturier.
Grieg Nurseries NL Ltd. refused a request for an interview.
The provincial government minister responsible for this file, Keith Hutchings, has not been available for comment.
- Listen to Jane Adey and CBC Radio's The Broadcast each weekday at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. NT.