Nova Scotia closes door on new salmon net-pen leases
The provincial government of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia has temporarily paused the development of new salmon aquaculture sites.
Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Steve Craig told the CBC that the department is not reviewing any new applications until it creates a coastal classification system. He said there have been companies interested in new sites, but that the department has paused any permit-review work.
"I've told them all that, no, I'm not allowing any of that … at this point until we get through the coastal classification system,” Craig said.
The province is performing a coastal classification project to determine which portions of its 13,000-kilometer coastline are most suitable for finfish aquaculture, and which areas should be avoided for environmental reasons. Craig said that the application process will be on hold until that study, being carried out by the Centre for Marine Applied Research, is complete.
"I'd be surprised if there are a thousand suitable for marine finfish environments, 500, 100,” he said. “I don't know what that number is, but I think we can get a better sense of that.”
Net-pen aquaculture has become more controversial across Canada in recent years. In Nova Scotia, an effort by Cooke Aquaculture in late 2021 came under fire from environmental groups as the province’s aquaculture review board – which was created in 2015 to examine aquaculture-related proposals – reviewed a proposal by Cooke subsidiary Kelly Cove Salmon for a boundary amendment to expand its farm.
That case was ultimately approved by the board, but opponents of farms quickly lashed out about the decision soon after it was made.
According to the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, companies can still go through the aquaculture review board's normal review process for a decision. Applications for fish farms that have already been entered into the process are still proceeding.
But Craig said he isn’t allowing any new finfish farm lease applications.
"Where I do have full discretion is allowing people to enter into that and providing an option to lease, and I have not allowed any of those options to be had,” he told the CBC.
A statement from Cooke Aquaculture has "encouraged" the governement of Nova Scotia to move forward on aquaculture development in the province, "as seen in new Brunswick, PEI, and Newfoundland."
"There has been very modest aquaculture growth in Nova Scotia for several years, yet the demand from families for fresh, nutritious, affordable food has risen dramatically," the company said in a release.
It added that the company predicts development of finfish farming in the province will be reasonable in scope based on the environmental conditions.
"In our view, there are only a handful of Nova Scotia locations with marine conditions suitable for finfish farming, so expansion of sites will be reasonable and adhere to the strict Aquaculture Regulations and Environmental Monitoring Program Framework," it said.
Photo courtesy of Cooke Aquaculture