Nfld. & Labrador

Marystown aquaculture project stuck in red tape, says owner Paul Antle

In a week, Paul Antle went from mulling over a bid to become premier of the province to calling the government "almost anti-business" because of his delays in his aquaculture project.

Marbase bought shipyard last year, has yet to get through environment assessment stage

The Marystown shipyard has been a fixture in the Burin Peninsula town for more than a half-century. But it has sat idle in recent years. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Last week, Paul Antle was mulling over a bid to become premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.

This week, he's out of the race and voicing his frustrations with the provincial government bureaucracy.

His aquaculture project in Marystown is stalled again, as he awaits instruction from the provincial government on an environmental preview report he will need to submit before he can move ahead.

"The red tape in our bureaucracy right now is mind-blowing," Antle told The St. John's Morning Show. "It's almost getting anti-business."

Capital moves around the world all the time and it goes to places where there's less resistance.- Paul Antle

Antle's company, Marystown Marbase Cleanerfish Hatchery, submitted an overarching environmental plan in December. A response from Environment Minister Derrick Bragg was due in January, but the deadline was extended twice. 

The decision came down Feb. 17, asking Marbase for more information in a full environmental preview report. The department has 60 days to send Marbase a guideline for the report, and Marbase has three years to file a full report.

In an emailed statement, the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment said before any project proceeds, it ensures "they do so in an environmentally acceptable manner."

Norwegian Bjorn Apeland, left, and St. John's business owner Paul Antle are the faces behind a company called Marbase, which has purchased the dormant Marystown shipyard. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Antle said he understands the importance of environmental concerns, but said the process is garbled.

"Everything is bogged down. It's dragged out," Antle told The St. John's Morning Show. "[It takes a] very long time for regulatory processes. Environmental reviews multiple, multiple, multiple times. We have to get back to balance between the environment and the economy."

The proposed project would see the former Marystown Shipyard turned into a lumpfish hatchery. The fish would be sold to salmon farms and used to eat sea lice in salmon cages.

The Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment wanted to know more about the impact of the project on wild lumpfish, the company's water treatment and waste management procedures, and a plan to deal with mass mortality.

Antle bought the old shipyard in March 2019 for $1 million. Marbase has signed agreements with two unions to create about 60 jobs during construction and 30 jobs when the plant is running.

An adult lumpfish swims in a tank at the Ocean Sciences Centre in Logy Bay, N.L., where they are studying lumpfish for their use in aquaculture. (Jane Adey/CBC)

He said he has Norwegian investors who have been waiting patiently for the project to get started.

"Capital moves around the world all the time and it goes to places where there's less resistance," Antle said.

Antle said there is no timeline for when the project could be released from the environmental assessment stage and begin putting people to work.

"Trying to figure out what the exact timeline is going to be is like trying to guess the winning numbers of the lottery right now."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show


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