New aquaculture pens miff advocates, fishermen
For more than 30 years, Ricky Hallett has fished the rich waters of Jordan Bay on Nova Scotia's seafaring south coast.
From his doorstep on a perch above the bay, he can look out to the harbour that has spawned the lobsters that have provided for his family for generations.
But the 52-year-old fisherman says he fears that could change in the coming years after a New Brunswick company was granted approval this week to set up open-net fish farming pens in the bay — an estuary that is a breeding ground for lobsters.
"I'm worried about my livelihood, I'm worried about the ecology of the harbor and I'm worried about the future of lobster reproduction," he said from his home in West Green Harbour.
"Do you ever see a maternity ward in a cesspool?"
The language may be dramatic, but it fits with an increasingly polarized debate in the province between people in traditional fisheries, the NDP government and aquaculture companies interested in expansion.
At the heart of the dispute are so-called open-net pens used primarily to raise salmon and trout in waters along the Nova Scotia coast, with sites stretching from Cape Breton to Digby.
There are 31 finfish sites in the province that are in current or planned production along with two in the application process.
The province recently released its aquaculture strategy that emphasized expanding the industry to boost jobs in parts of rural Nova Scotia hit hard by unemployment and outmigration.
But the push by the NDP to increase the number of open-pen sites has generated opposition from both citizens' groups, who insist they foul the environment, and fishermen like Hallett, who fear they will harm the lobsters and imperil their livelihoods.