Nova Scotia

Why open-pen salmon farms could be coming to St. Margarets Bay, Mahone Bay

A multinational salmon farming corporation has added St. Margarets Bay and Mahone Bay as potential sites for open-pen salmon farming in Nova Scotia. Cermaq Canada is considering whether to expand into Nova Scotia.

Province has granted Cermaq Canada exclusive options to assess 2 Nova Scotia bays

Cermaq Canada has received an option from the provincial government to assess St. Margarets Bay for open-pen salmon farming. (Paul Withers/CBC)

A multinational salmon farming corporation has added St. Margarets Bay and Mahone Bay as potential sites for open-pen salmon farming in Nova Scotia.

Cermaq Canada is considering whether to expand into Nova Scotia.

This week, the Nova Scotia government granted Cermaq exclusive options allowing the company up to a year to investigate whether the two bays near Halifax are suitable for salmon farming.

"These two bays have good water temperature profiles and depths and some sheltered spots in them that make them pretty conducive to salmon farming," says Linda Sams, Cermaq's director of sustainable development.

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

In April, the company announced it was looking at a $500-million development in Nova Scotia involving up to 20 farms.

At that time, Cermaq was granted options to evaluate St. Marys Bay in Digby County and sites in Guysborough and Richmond counties.

Linda Sams is Cermaq Canada's director of sustainable development. (Cermaq photo)

No decision has been made on those locations.

Public meetings in adjacent communities planned for November have been delayed for several months.

It's not clear if the additional sites are needed to meet Cermaq's annual production target in Nova Scotia of 20,000 metric tonnes.

"We don't know yet how that's going to look and what the formula is going to be, but I can anticipate that Mahone Bay or St. Margarets Bay, or both of them, could be a very important component of it," Sams said.

Cermaq currently operates in British Columbia, where it has 28 salmon farming licences on Vancouver Island.

During the federal election campaign, the Liberals pledged to end open-pen salmon farming in B.C.

Sams said that had no impact on its expansion initiative in Nova Scotia, which was in the works before the Trudeau campaign promise.

She said the company is not looking at any other locations in Nova Scotia.

Cooke Seafoods currently operates a salmon farm at Saddle Island on the Aspotogan Peninsula, which separates Mahone Bay and St. Margarets Bay.

No fish farms currently in either bay

There are no fish farms in either bay that are popular recreational areas and home to commercial lobster fisheries.

"We're the type of company that wants to work with everybody, take everybody's concerns and issues into consideration and my message would be come and speak with us," said Sams.

"Let's talk about how the resources can potentially be shared, to complement each other and how perhaps by having us there is actually a real benefit to the local community, and we want to do it in a way that's sensitive to all the users of the marine environment."

Fish farms have been a tough sell in coastal communities with opponents pointing to everything from sea lice outbreaks, fish feces and chemicals used in production.

Cooke Seafoods is seeking regulatory approval to expand an existing salmon farm in Liverpool Bay on the south shore.

It is the first expansion since the province's Liberal government lifted a moratorium on new fish farms.