Nova Scotia

N.S. fisheries minister dismisses critics of Cooke Aquaculture

Keith Colwell has come out swinging against opponents of Cooke Aquaculture, after one of them suggested the company's Jordan Bay operation suffered serious damage in a storm earlier this month.

'It's the same people complaining all the time,' says Keith Colwell

Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell said Cooke is following regulations "right to the T." (CBC)

The cabinet minister responsible for overseeing Nova Scotia's aquaculture industry has dismissed the concerns of one of the harshest critics of the industry and Cooke Aquaculture, one of the province's key players.

Earlier this month, South Shore lobster fisherman Ricky Hallett told CBC News it appeared the company's operations in Jordan Bay had been severely damaged by high winds and heavy seas.

"Seventeen out of 20 of the pens have the tops off them and most of them have the sides smashed down," Hallett said. "I live just adjacent to the site and I can look right out on it." 

'No significant damage'

Following a regular cabinet meeting Thursday, Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell disputed that version of events.

"There's no significant damage," he told reporters. "A couple of the cages were damaged. No fish escaped."

Colwell said department staff including a veterinarian had visited the site and found nothing out of the ordinary.

"Divers did go down, did check the nets," he said. "No damage to the nets has been reported by the company and verified by our staff.

"They're following regulations right to the T and they're working."

Plastic piping washed up on the shore along Jordan Bay, N.S. (Kathaleen Milan and Ron Neufeld)

Colwell went out of his way to praise Cooke Aquaculture staff.

"This is probably the first time we've ever seen so much co-operation from (an) aquaculture site," he said. 

As for Hallett and his claims, Colwell dismissed them out of hand.

"The easiest way to put it is it's the same people complaining all the time. It's the same complaints and they're not justified."

"Everything has been done by the book this time. And we have rules around it now. We didn't have rules around it two years ago. We have them in place now. All those are followed. Everything in the regulations was done.

"Our fish vet has been on site, actually checked the fish. There was a few mortalities on site. Very few, but that's normal anyway on a site."