Nfld. & Labrador

Government appealing Supreme Court decision on environmental assessment for Placentia Bay salmon farm

The decision comes as no surprise to the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

Atlantic Salmon Federation says they aren't surprised, that they'll keep fighting

Among the ASF's concerns about the Placentia Bay project is Grieg's proposal to import European salmon and render them sterile. (CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has announced its intent to appeal a Supreme Court decision to require a full environmental assessment for a proposed aquaculture project in Placentia Bay.

The news does not surprise the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF), the organization which took the government to court in the first place.

Steve Sutton is with the Atlantic Salmon Federation in New Brunswick. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

"We know that the province does not want this project or any aquaculture project to go through an environmental assessment," says Steve Sutton, ASF's co-ordinator of community engagement. 

"I think they are terrified of what will come out if a company is forced to open their plans or open up this industry to the kind of public scrutiny that an environmental impact statement requires."

'A duty owed to the people of the province'

Grieg NL, a Norwegian-owned company with salmon farming operations in Norway, Scotland and British Columbia, wants to set up a salmon farming operation in Placentia Bay. It would be one of the biggest salmon farming operations in the country, more than doubling the province's current annual farmed salmon production.

The province released the project from an environmental impact statement (EIS) in July, 2016. An EIS would require a full assessment of the project's possible environmental impacts and problems as well as strategies to minimize the impacts.

The proposed Placentia Bay salmon farm would be the biggest in the province and one of the biggest in Canada. (Hans-Petter Fjeld/Wikimedia Commons)

A month later, that decision was appealed by the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

It took the case to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, and won. Justice Gillian Butler ruled that a full EIS was required, saying that "such a duty [was] owed to the people of the province."

Now the provincial government is appealing that decision.

Past projects exempted

Three other salmon farming operations have been released from an EIS in the past: The Hopeall Fish Farm Hatchery in Trinity Bay, the Stephenville Indian Head Salmon Hatchery, and the St. Alban's Salmon Hatchery, operated by Cold Ocean Salmon, Inc., a subsidiary of Cooke Aquaculture.

This is a juvenile Pacific sockeye salmon with sea lice. Sutton says the Placentia Bay project would use new technology to control sea lice. (Alexandra Morton)

Sutton said the government released those projects from an EIS because nobody fought them on it.

"They got away with it because nobody stood up and said, hey, your legislation says if a project may have environmental impacts it must go through environmental assessment," he said. "So our contention is that the development of the industry until now has not been consistent with the province's environmental legislation."

Sutton said he's confident that the ASF had a good case and says that even if the decision gets overturned, they'll keep fighting for a complete environmental assessment.