Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia promises new aquaculture regime for fish farms

Nova Scotia's Liberal government delivered its response Tuesday to a stinging report on the province's aquaculture regime, promising more transparency and rigour when it comes to regulating fish farms.

Independent Nova Scotia Aquaculture Review Board will have final say on future fish farm sites

Keith Colwell, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, is promising more transparency and rigour when it comes to regulating fish farms. (CBC)

Nova Scotia's Liberal government delivered its response Tuesday to a stinging report on the province's aquaculture regime, promising more transparency and rigour when it comes to regulating fish farms.

"We need stronger oversight, more proactive release of information. This is the first step to make it a reality," Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Colwell told reporters in Halifax.

On Tuesday, Colwell introduced amendments to the Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act. Detailed regulations will follow in coming months.

The amendments create an independent three-member Nova Scotia Aquaculture Review Board that will have final approval on future fish farm sites after holding public hearings.

"We think it's important that industry and the public have a venue where they can go to make their case," Colwell said.

"We want to make sure this is not a political decision."

Big issue is mistrust

Two Dalhousie law professors — Meinhard Doelle and Bill Lahey — spent more than a year studying aquaculture. Their December 2014 report concluded the environmental risks can be mitigated but an overhaul is needed to restore the industry's credibility in coastal Nova Scotia.

Here's how the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture responded:

  • Province will set out coastal areas suitable for sites.
  • Existing operations grandfathered but will eventually have to conform to new regime, requiring industry to carry out prescribed scientific testing.
  • Idle sites will have year to get into production.
  • Current moratorium on applications expected to be lifted by summer.
  • Future applications processed within a year.

Tom Smith, the executive director of the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia, supported the government's direction.

"We are already developing codes of practice in consultation with government that will define how responsible farming is delivered that will meet future regulations," Smith told CBC News.

"We feel government supports the growth of the industry."

Environmentalist Ray Plourde, of the Ecology Action Centre, called the amendments "baby steps with more questions than answers."

He said Nova Scotia has avoided committing to the recommendations contained in the Doelle Lahey report.

"They are missing the most important thing — the regulatory advisory committee, which is a multi-stakeholder panel to implement the package of recommendations from Doelle Lahey," he said.

"The minister has gone off on his own."

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