Nova Scotia

Proposed $500M salmon farm operation for N.S. pushed back 6 months

Cermaq Canada says it needs more time to consult local groups about the location of 20 farm sites, capable of producing 20 million kilograms of farmed Atlantic salmon per year.

Cermaq Canada still considering options for locating 20 open-pen salmon farms, processing plant

Cermaq Canada says it needs more time to consult locals on its $500-million proposal to develop 20 open-pen Atlantic salmon farms sites, two hatcheries and a processing plant. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

It will be another six months before a multinational salmon farming corporation decides whether to proceed with a large expansion into Nova Scotia.

Cermaq Canada says it needs more time to consult locals on its $500-million proposal to develop 20 open-pen Atlantic salmon farms sites, two hatcheries and a processing plant.

The Nova Scotia government has granted the company's request for an extension on options to lease coastal waters in Digby, Guysborough and Richmond counties.

"We've been talking to different stakeholders," said Linda Sams, director of sustainable development for Cermaq. "The Mi'kmaq First Nation, fishermen, and we need more time to have really in-depth conversations. That was the driving force for asking for the extension."

She was speaking from Canadian headquarters in Campbell River, B.C., where Cermaq holds 28 salmon farming licences on Vancouver Island.

The Canadian operation is part of Cermaq Global of Norway. Cermaq Global is a wholly owned subsidiary of Japanese multinational Mitsubishi.

Linda Sams, Cermaq Canada director of sustainable development, says the company needs more time to consult on its plan to expand into Nova Scotia. (Cermaq photo)

The company was awarded the Nova Scotia lease options in late March.

They were set to expire at the end of September and have been extended until the end of March 2020.

"It also allows us to get a second winter's worth of data which is also very useful," Sams said.

Annual output of 20 million kilograms required

Cermaq said it needs annual production of 20,000 metric tonnes  — or 20 million kilograms — to justify a Nova Scotia operation.

The company options are for potential sites in St. Marys Bay, Digby County, Guysborough County south of Canso and areas around Isle Madame and St Peter's, Cape Breton.

Sams said Cermaq has not decided on any one site. It has been studying water depths, currents, temperatures and oxygen levels.

"I can't say we're any closer than we were six months ago," she said. "But we have a lot more information and I do believe that within the next three to four months, we'll really be starting to put some more definitive lines on maps and moving forward."

Cermag says it will need annual production of 20,000 metric tonnes of Atlantic salmon to justify a Nova Scotia operation. (CBC)

Part of the evaluation includes trying to factor in the effects of more extreme weather caused by climate change.

"If things do proceed, we'd be looking at being in the province for decades and decades." she said. "So we're not only looking at conditions now, but looking at forecasting what conditions might be like even up to 20 years from now."

Cermaq 'still looking' at other areas of province

The company is "still looking at other areas" of coastal Nova Scotia but for now the focus is on the publicly identified lease areas.

"If we move forward with an option in another area we'll do exactly the same as we did here," said Sams. "We'll be very transparent. We'll announce it."

Community meetings planned for this month have been pushed into November.

Cermaq is in the process of setting up 15-member community information and advocacy committees in Digby, Guysborough/Canso and Arichat.

Each committee will have seats for one Cermaq employee, two commercial fishermen, two local politicians and one technical position.

"It is important to note that we want to hear from the whole community, whether you love salmon farming or would like to see us pack up and head back west," the company said in a recent newsletter. "Our goal with these committees is to gather feedback and input from a broad representation of the local area."

Cermaq will create a separate committee for "separate but equal" discussions with the Mi'kmaq.