Nova Scotia

Public consultation sessions scheduled for 3 N.S. salmon farms

Public consultation sessions on three open-net pen fish farms in Nova Scotia are slated to take place this week and fish farming opponents are preparing to voice their opposition.

Opponents of fish farming have awaited opportunity to provide input

The tops of several open-net salmon pens sit above the water off Victoria Beach in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Basin. The farm, operated by Cooke Aquaculture subsidiary Kelly Cove Salmon, has capacity for more than half a million fish. (Submitted by Cooke Aquaculture)

Public consultation sessions on three open-net pen salmon farms in Nova Scotia are slated to take place this week, and opponents of fish farming are preparing to voice their opposition.

The salmon farms — located off Brier Island, Saddle Island and Victoria Beach — are all owned and operated by Kelly Cove Salmon, a subsidiary of Cooke Aquaculture.

The company applied in 2016 to Nova Scotia's Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture for boundary amendments to licences on a total of five fish farms.

Three are now undergoing the adjudication process, which includes:

  • Undergoing an extensive review by the provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and other government departments.
  • Requiring the company to hold at least one public information session for each site.
  • Conducting First Nation consultations where required.
  • Submitting an application to the Nova Scotia Aquaculture Review Board for a decision.

The three fish farms are already operating outside their existing lease and licence boundaries, but since Kelly Cove Salmon has applied for amendments, the province has not penalized them for the violations. 

The Healthy Bays Network, a coalition of opponents to fish farming, has been critical of the province's approach. Chair Brian Muldoon said initiating public consultation now is "a bit of a joke."

"All it is is a check in the box," Muldoon said.

Atlantic salmon swim in a net pen. Open-net pens are a common tool used to farm salmon. (Northern Harvest Sea Farms)

Still, he's planning to attend the meetings and has been promoting them to members of the Healthy Bays Network and others who live near the fish farms.

Muldoon lives within sight of a salmon farm in Liverpool Bay and said it's a source of noise and marine pollution. He does not want the aquaculture sector expanding in Nova Scotia and said he's hoping to make that point clear to regulators through the upcoming open houses.

A spokesperson for Cooke Aquaculture said the proposed boundary amendments for the Saddle Island and Brier Island farms are to accommodate moorings and equipment only, not to increase salmon production. For the Victoria Beach site, the application includes an increase from 16 cages to 20, and from 550,000 fish to 660,000.

A spokesperson for the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture said the public feedback gathered is meant to inform the company's application to the department.

The public will also have an opportunity to comment directly to the aquaculture review board at a public hearing. The date of hearings for Kelly Cove Salmon's applications have yet to be set. Details will be published at least 60 days ahead of time.

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