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Above - St. Mary's River's Ford Pool

Below - A farmed salmon

It's our choice!


Nova Scotians Betrayed!


On Monday evening, February 6th 2012, I was one of four Eastern Sportfish Association (ESA) members that attended a public meeting at the Sheet Harbour Legion.


The meeting was hosted by NS’s Aquaculture Division. Its purpose was to present and hear public reaction to three new salmon farms proposed for the eastern shore coast near Sheet Harbour. When we arrived the legion was packed, standing room only.


A company called Loch Duart from northwest Scotland proposed the development.

To its credit, Loch Duart uses methods at their Scotland location that enable them to brand their product as “The finest and only sustainability farmed Atlantic salmon in the world.” The company has proved that customers will pay more for higher quality, and the entire industry should learn an important lesson from this.


However, opponents say that although Loch Duart can produce a superior product, it doesn’t go nearly far enough in protecting coastlines and wild fish populations. Its proposal uses marine sea-cages rather than a closed land-based recirculation system.


Opponents say, in a nutshell, that the problem with sea-pens is that anything outside the cages can get in, and anything inside the cages can get out. This includes pollution, disease, parasites, and predators like seals. Cages can also be damaged by storms, allowing fish to escape.


Resulting problems like sea-lice infestations and disease are have proven deadly to our wild salmon smolts in the Bay of Fundy, Norway, western Scotland, and British Columbia. In addition, farmed salmon that escape can adversely affect wild populations through inter-breeding in our rivers. Farmed fish are bred for rapid growth, not for survival in the wild.


The aquaculture industry maintains that land-based systems are too expensive to operate, yet we see fine examples of profitable land-based salmon farms such as that operated by a Hutterite community in Montana.


To summarize the meeting I’d say the public’s reaction was almost unanimously against the proposal, the only supporters being two people we suspect were planted by the aquaculture industry or government and invited to speak.


Nonetheless, we left with the discouraging feeling that this is already a done deal. Again our government has betrayed us, this time for only 20 measly jobs.


We learned that if the proposal survives public hearings and media coverage, no such public input is required to change or expand the project in future, or for change in ownership.


We learned although the Scots say they are prepared to spend “millions” in Nova Scotia, that both federal and provincial public funds are expected in return.


We learned that of the last 10 NS salmon farm applications, our federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, DFO, allowed them all to proceed.


We learned that government inspections are required only once per year.


We learned a lot, all 300 or so folks that attended the meeting. Our government’s regulation of this industry is even worse than most of us suspected.


Our government needs a wake-up call. Since Nova Scotia exports about 80% of its farmed salmon to the US, and with new technology enabling land-based fish farms to operate in the US, close to their major markets, has the end of coastal fish farming in the Atlantic provinces not already begun?


Why not instead develop sport fishing tourism, an industry with a proven past and great potential for the future? Why not develop the Eastern Shore for other tourism markets, including eco-tourism? Significant and sustainable economic and social benefits await Nova Scotia if we choose wisely. 


I can visualize this as an election issue if the opposition parties smell the blood that is being spread by the media. I also see it as a battle that has just started, the outcome deciding the future of wild salmon, lobster fishing, and salmon farming in Nova Scotia. As Raymond Plourde of the Ecology Action Centre said to me in leaving the meeting, “We’re not giving up on this one!”


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