AquaBounty proposes to set up commercial GMO salmon production in Rollo Bay West

The company that proposed to set up a conventional salmon broodstock facility in Rollo Bay West, has changed its proposal to also raise genetically modified salmon to market size on the site.

Neighbours of facility "astonished" to hear company now wants to grow genetically modified salmon at facility

AquaBounty now plans to repurpose this old sea smolt hatchery in Rollo Bay West and construct two 40,000 square foot buildings on the land behind it. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The company that proposed to set up a conventional salmon broodstock facility in Rollo Bay West, has changed its proposal to also raise genetically modified salmon to market size on the site. 

AquaBounty Canada Inc. has submitted an amended proposal to P.E.I.'s environment department, laying out plans to construct two 40,000 square foot buildings, and to rear GMO salmon at the Rollo Bay West site. 

"We were astonished," said Dawn Carter, who lives across the street from the site. "We were not told that last year, so we were very surprised to see their plans have changed so significantly, to be such a big commercial GMO operation instead of just rearing GMO free salmon eggs."

Stephen and Dawn Carter look through AquaBounty's environmental impact statement. The Carters live across the street from the proposed expansion site. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Previous plan stated "no GMO salmon" at new facility 

Carter, along with a handful of other residents and environmental groups raised concerns about AquaBounty's expansion plans at a public meeting last spring. 

Carter says she was "assured" at that meeting that the new facility would not be used to raise genetically modified salmon. 

We were very surprised to see their plans have changed- Dawn Carter, Neighbour of AquaBounty's Rollo Bay facility 

As was laid out in its environmental impact statement (EIS) submitted to the province last spring, the company's plan for the Rollo Bay West facility was to raise conventional salmon, which would provide eggs that would be transferred to its GMO salmon plant in Bay Fortune. 

"The proposed facility at Rollo Bay West will have no GMO salmon," was one of the statements in the question and answer section of the 2016 EIS.

The amended EIS submitted to the province this month lays out plans by AquaBounty to rear sterile GMO salmon at the expanded facility, from egg to market size. 

Capacity of 250 metric tons per year 

The environmental impact statement lays out the number of eggs, broodstock and GMO fish that would be on site. "The site has the capacity to produce 250 metric tons per year of 4.5-5 kg Atlantic salmon," reads the statement.

It also adds, "The fish and facility will be monitored by both DFO and CFIA for fish health and bio-security and all additional provincial and federal regulatory requirements will be met."

The assessment, prepared for AquaBounty and conducted by Joose Environmental Consulting Inc. and DE Jardine Consulting, recommends to the province that the company's new plans should proceed. 

"The potential environmental effects of the proposed project on all valued environmental components would not be significant during the construction, operation and maintenance of the proposed facility with the planned mitigation and monitoring elements in place," the report says. 

Neighbours worried about area's water 

Dawn Carter says that assessment doesn't give her much comfort. The Rollo Bay West resident says she's particularly worried about the operation's potential impact on the area's water. 

"We still don't know what the effects will be on our water quality and quantity," said Carter. "Since this is a larger scale operation, it means more coming into the fish, more going out of the fish. And it all has to make its way out to our fields, to our water table, all of that."

The EIS says the site will use a recirculating aquaculture system on the property. "This technology allows for a very efficient and conservative approach to the use of groundwater resources as it will require very small amounts of new water to be used," states the document's authors. 

Carter is planning to attend a public meeting about the AquaBounty expansion project, organized by P.E.I's environment department. 

The meeting is scheduled to go from 6-8 pm Tuesday evening, at the Fortune Community Centre. 

AquaBounty's AquAdvantage Salmon has been approved for sale in Canada and in the U.S. 

AquaBounty has not responded to requests for comment about the new proposal for the Rollo Bay West site.