Nova Scotia

Lobster fishermen oppose plans to build land-based salmon farm in Yarmouth County

Bernie Berry and Roy White say there are many unanswered questions about an aquaculture company's proposal to build a land-based salmon farm south of Yarmouth, N.S., and they want local leaders to reject the company's application.

Boreal Salmon Inc. looking to build facility on Chebogue Point, south of Yarmouth

Roy White and Bernie Berry say they worry the proposed salmon farm could damage wetland along the coast of southwest Nova Scotia. They want local leaders to reject the project. (Phlis McGregor/CBC)

Two southwest Nova Scotia lobster fishermen say an aquaculture company's proposal to build a land-based salmon farm south of Yarmouth, N.S., could threaten the region's coastal environment and economy. 

They want the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth to reject an application by Boreal Salmon Inc. to build a facility on wetland in Chebogue Point.

The New Brunswick-based company, backed by Chilean investors, has already bought about 22 hectares in the area and a public meeting about their proposed project is scheduled for July 20. 

"This is simply not the right place," Bernie Berry told CBC Radio's Information Morning during an interview near the site this week. 

"I'm not sure if there is a right place for a land-based, open farm. There's just too many questions, unanswered questions for the small economic impact we believe this could create."

In an initial application to the municipality, Boreal Salmon Inc. proposes building the facility on and around a strip of land between Big Pond and the ocean. (Municipality of the District of Yarmouth website)

Land-based fish farms grow fish in tanks on land and are different from open-net farms, which are set up in the water. 

According to an application to the municipality, Boreal Salmon's initial plan is to use a "flow-through system" that would pipe seawater into the tanks, then filter the water that's used before it's returned to the sea.

Berry, a member of the Coldwater Lobster Association, said he worries about substances ending up in the ocean and harming local industries, such as lobster fishing, clamming and tourism.

Company proposes building dozens of tanks

Boreal Salmon's first stage would see the construction of about 40 large tanks and 16 smaller tanks near the shore, on a piece of land around and between a pond and the ocean.

The company's application notes that by the second stage, the facility would produce up to 5,500 metric tonnes a year of Atlantic salmon and/or sea trout, which is a maximum of about 1.5 million fish. The project would require up to $60 million to go ahead.

Municipal council would also need to rezone the area and amend its planning strategy to allow for this kind of open-flow facility that draws in water from the ocean and returns it. Staff have already recommended that the changes be made, according to a municipal report about the company's application

White says the wetland that Boreal Salmon Inc. has purchased is rich with wildlife, including eastern painted turtles, American eels, deer and ducks. (Phlis McGregor/CBC)

CBC News reached out to Boreal Salmon but the company declined to comment at this time. 

The proposed site sits near a residential area and can be seen from the popular Cape Forchu lighthouse, which is located just down the coast. 

"It's awful disheartening to see ... our coastal communities getting smaller all the time," said lobster fisherman Roy White. "It's getting a little bit too industrial and money isn't everything, and I don't think it's a good thing for Yarmouth at all."

White, who has lived in the area all of his life, said he felt sick to his stomach after thinking of the space being overtaken by a fish farm. 

"It's a wetland and to fill this in is going to be terrible to the landscape and everything," he said.

There has been opposition to other fish farms in Nova Scotia in the past. Last year, Norwegian-based Cermaq abandoned its plans to expand in the province after it couldn't get enough support to set up 15 to 20 open-net farms in several coastal communities. 

Several signs opposing the company's proposal have gone up in the Chebogue Point area. (Phlis McGregor/CBC)

Signs have started going up in the Chebogue Point area from residents who oppose Boreal Salmon's proposed project and a protest was planned for Wednesday morning.

Berry said many residents are upset that they only learned of the company's application about two weeks ago.

The deputy warden for the area said the company submitted its application in May and it was reviewed by planning staff in the middle of June. 

White is a commercial lobster fisherman who has lived on Chebogue Point his entire life. (Phlis McGregor/CBC)

"There's certainly time, you know, for folks to be involved in the process, both proponents and detractors of any potential development, and we're certainly wanting to hear from everybody," said Trevor Cunningham, who is also chair of the planning advisory committee.

After the public meeting on July 20 the issue will come before the planning advisory committee on July 26, which will either recommend or not recommend that council take a look at it.

"There is a requirement for a development agreement signed by any company looking at this type of activity and that certainly mitigates environmental harm, unsightliness, those types of things," Cunningham said. 

Determining the environmental impact on the surrounding area would also be considered by the federal and provincial governments, he said. 

But Berry has made up his mind. He doesn't want to see any kind of fish farming in Yarmouth County.

"I realize that rural municipalities do need industry but this is simply the wrong type of industry," he said.

With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning