More consultation with harvesters needed before approval of Grieg aquaculture project, says FFAW

A union is calling for more consultation with fish harvesters before the provincial government considers approval for three marine aquaculture sites in Placentia Bay.

Department of Fisheries says harvesters will have opportunity to provide feedback

FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan says 'not enough information has been provided' about Grieg NL's applications for three marine aquaculture sites in Placentia Bay. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

A union representing fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador says the provincial government should not approve three marine aquaculture sites in the waters of Placentia Bay until further consultation has been done with harvesters.

FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan says harvesters who work in the area haven't been told enough about Grieg NL's application for three marine sites east of Merasheen Island.

"Not enough information has been provided," he said.

"I'm not convinced that even people who are going to be impacted, who are going to have this in their backyards, really fully understand what the company is proposing or how many fish are going to be there, so they really need to make an effort."

Sullivan and the FFAW are calling for more formal consultation with harvesters and claim harvesters could be the most affected the aquaculture project.

'Incredible' risks  

He said the marine sites could make it difficult for fishing vessels to navigate the busy bay or affect cod, crab or lobster habitats.

"The risks in this bay already to harvesters are incredible … others in the aquaculture world have looked a Placentia Bay in the past and for a variety of reasons decided not to go there because of the risks," said Sullivan.

"Now we have a company coming in, despite all that work done in the past … we're concerned that not enough work has been done on this one."

Sullivan says the marine sites will make navigating Placentia Bay difficult for fishing vessels. (Aqua Maof Group/Submitted)

And he said among the fish harvesters who were consulted, details about the sites have been inconsistent.

"It's not clear, even to the few people that they did deal with, where exactly these [sites] would be."

Sullivan said he is concerned the province is putting aquaculture jobs ahead of fish harvesters and the environment.

"Our concern is that government have been really promoting aquaculture and not putting enough checks and balances in place and not understanding how important the marine environment is for harvesters," he said.

Further opportunities for feedback coming

In a statement to CBC News, the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources said the three marine aquaculture sites went through an environmental assessment as part of Grieg NL's application, during which "numerous consultations were done, including with the fish harvesters on the marine sites."

The department said the applications are now being reviewed by staff.

"This process is quite extensive before a decision is made on whether the applications are approved," the statement read.

"During this time the company has to advertise its intentions on the marine sites for a 20-day time period. Therefore, fish harvesters and the public in that area will have another opportunity to review and provide feedback."

Sullivan said it's not too late to consult harvesters.

He suggested that Grieg use all land-based infrastructure rather than using sea cages in marine sites, and to conduct baseline studies to determine the effects of aquaculture development.

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With files from The Broadcast