Hype over Placentia Bay aquaculture proposal ends with a thud

A much-anticipated update on a proposed aquaculture project for Placentia Bay failed to materialize Thursday after proponents failed to show up at a conference in Placentia.

Representatives from Grieg Seafarms no-shows at industrial showcase in Placentia

Marystown Mayor Sam Synard is seen speaking Wednesday at the Placentia Bay Industrial Showcase in Placentia. (CBC)

A much-anticipated update on a proposed aquaculture project for Placentia Bay failed to materialize Thursday when officials from the company failed to show up at a conference in Placentia.

Officials from Grieg Seafarms were scheduled to speak at the final session of the Placentia Bay Industrial Showcase, but called at the last minute to say they wouldn't be attending.

Marystown Mayor Sam Synard was also scheduled to speak, but was not in attendance.

Conference organizers were baffled by the last-minute cancellation.

"I have no idea," said one member of the Placentia Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the two-day showcase.

$300-million investment

Synard drew attention to the proposal during his opening remarks at the conference on Wednesday, saying that Grieg was proposing to invest $300 million to transform Placentia Bay into the aquaculture epicentre of Newfoundland and Labrador with its headquarters in Marystown, the largest municipality in Placentia Bay.

Synard later said the proposal included the construction of a hatchery in Marystown.

Company officials would not comment when approached afterwards by CBC News, and said they would provide more details during their presentation on Thursday.

Could Placentia Bay become a hub for aquaculture in Newfoundland and Labrador? Marystown Mayor Sam Synard believes that just might be the case. (CBC)

Long Harbour-Mount Arlington Heights Mayor Gary Keating also confirmed the proposal later on Wednesday, saying the company has plans to develop a port in his community.

"This is big," Keating told CBC News.

Premier Paul Davis, who spoke at the opening of the showcase, said he was unaware of the proposal.

Specializes in Atlantic salmon

The parent company is Grieg Seafood, which describes itself as one of the world's largest sea farming companies, specializing in Atlantic salmon. The operations in Placentia Bay and Marystown are called Grieg Seafarms.

According to its website, the company already has operations in Norway, British Columbia and the United Kingdom. It employs about 700 people and  has annual production of more than 90,000 tonnes, gutted weight.

According to a June report in the Southern Gazette newspaper in Marystown, the company is looking to make Placentia Bay a major part of its operations, with the eventual goal of producing 35,000 tonnes of Atlantic salmon and employing up to 600 people.

News of a potential aquaculture industry in Placentia Bay is timely. The economy is booming in Marystown, with some 1,300 workers employed on a project related to the Hebron oil platform.

But that work is winding down.

Synard said Marystown has a lot to offer a company like Grieg, including modern infrastructure, plenty of land, good access to water, and a good workforce.

Sources at the showcase in Placentia say details about the project could be firmed up in the coming weeks, and construction on a hatchery could begin.

If all the pieces fall into place, the company could begin processing seafood grown in Placentia Bay by 2018.


Terry Roberts is a reporter with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, and is based in St. John’s. He previously worked for The Telegram, The Compass and The Northern Pen newspapers during a career that began in 1991. He can be reached by email at: