Delays in aquaculture lease approvals lead Nova Scotia company to scale back expansion plans

A selection of oysters at a seafood market
Nova Scotia-based Premium Seafoods is pulling back on shellfish aquaculture after lengthy delays to its application to farm oysters | Photo courtesy of Jaclyn Vernace/Shutterstock
2 Min

Lengthy delays for shellfish aquaculture leases in Nova Scotia, Canada, have led a seafood company to pull back its operations in the province.

Nova Scotia-based Premium Seafoods told CBC News it is scaling back its plans for three oyster aquaculture leases due to a lack of progress from the provincial government. The company said it applied for the leases in 2019, and has seen no progress on the applications since then. 

"Our company has reached the difficult decision to step back from our aquaculture operations," Premium Seafoods Director of Aquaculture Operations Michelle Samson told the CBC. "It is disheartening that the current process does not provide a realistic pathway for companies and individuals, both established and aspiring, to participate in the industry's growth."

Samson said the company’s lease applications have not been withdrawn but the company is not planning to invest in aquaculture any further given the lengthy delays. 

"This week our company informed the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture in Nova Scotia outlining our dismay at the state of aquaculture in [Nova Scotia] and the numerous barriers hindering its progress," Samson said.

According to Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia Executive Director John Bishop, roughly 24 aquaculture lease applications are being considered by the province, and many of them face lengthy approval processes.

"This doesn't appear to be a unique situation. People are discouraged by the length of time, and at times the lack of clarity of where their application may sit or what's next," he told the CBC.

The Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture considers permitting on both land-based and marine-based aquaculture operations, and recently announced it is moving to speed up the approval process. 

The department, in a statement provided to SeafoodSource, added it is rolling out a number of projects to help move the permitting process along, including establishing a streamlined process for amending existing shellfish aquaculture licenses to add marine plant species, launching a pilot project to find new operators for existing site already approved for leeases, and developing its coastal classificaiton system to share information about sites suitable to aquaculture. 

"We are also working to implement the recommendations of the aquaculture regulatory review committee," the department said. "Progress continues to be made and we have shared updates with the Aquaculture Association and the Nova Scotia Aquaculture Regulatory Advisory Committee."

The department also announced that Instead of requiring applications be seen before an aquaculture review board, 53 pre-approved sites will go before provincial administrative review, the CBC reported. 

The Nova Scotia Aquaculture Review Board has made relatively few decisions on lease applications. Since 2020, it has made just six decisions on lease applications – half of which have to do with Kelly Cove Salmon, a division of Cooke Aquaculture. In February, it approved an application from Town Point Consulting submitted in December 2022 for three shellfish aquaculture sites. The approval came nearly a year after it approved “intervenor” status for multiple residents and local organizations. 

Long delays in aquaculture approvals are not new in Nova Scotia. In 2023, the province closed the door on new salmon net-pen leases. At the time the provincial government decided to stop reviewing all new applications until it created a coastal classification system. However, that closure was not applied to lease sites for shellfish and seaweed. The province also had a five-year moratorium on then issuance of new seafood processing and buying licenses, which then-Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Steve Craig lifted in 2023.  

SeafoodSource Premium

Become a Premium member to unlock the rest of this article.

Continue reading ›

Already a member? Log in ›


Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500