Nova Scotia

N.S. expanding Aquaculture Review Board membership to avoid logjam

Nova Scotia's fisheries minister wants to expand the number of people who can sit on the arm's-length board that reviews aquaculture applications in the province.

Province expects as many as 40 reviews in the coming years

Atlantic salmon are shown in an open-net pen aquaculture site. The Nova Scotia government is expanding the board that oversees applications. (Northern Harvest Sea Farms)

The body that reviews applications for changes to existing aquaculture sites in Nova Scotia, or accepts or rejects new project proposals could see its board membership more than triple.

Fisheries Minister Steve Craig introduced a bill in the Nova Scotia Legislature Tuesday to expand the membership of the Nova Scotia Aquaculture Review Board from three members to as many as 10.

Craig said the move is to ensure there will be enough people available to hold hearings in a timely way, given the number of applications the government expects the arm's-length board to deal with in the coming years.

"There are about nine more cases to come in, about 12 to be added to that by 2023," Craig told reporters during a briefing on the proposed changes to the Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act. "There are a number of options now being looked at as well.

"We could be looking at upwards of 40 hearings that could go to this board."

An open-net pen salmon farm off Victoria Beach, N.S., operated by Kelly Cove Salmon, a subsidiary of Cooke Aquaculture. (Submitted by Cooke Aquaculture)

The bill also allows the board itself to determine how many people would need to sit in judgment of a proposal. According to one amendment, "one or more members" would constitute a panel to hear an application.

Craig said a smaller panel would be for minor changes to an operation rather than any new application. Currently, all three members on the board need to sit to hear an application, and if one member falls ill or is unavailable, that delays reviews.

Craig said the amendments he's bringing forward, at the request of the board, are designed to ensure timelier reviews take place.

"This is about giving the board the numbers that they need to handle as many, reasonably, applications that go through their board and not hold up the community, nor hold up the proponents," said Craig.

The minister pointed to the fact it has, so far, taken the board a year to deal with one application for a boundary review at a Kelly Cove salmon farm. Public consultation on that application has been twice delayed but is slated to go ahead next month.