Despite Cermaq recognizing Nova Scotia as unsuitable for open net finfish farming, Cooke Aquaculture has re-affirmed its plans to spend $80 million to expand the size of its existing open net industrial fish farms, hatchery and processing plant. Overall, they are looking to increase their production to 30,000 metric tons of farmed fish per year from their current 8,500 metric tons.
Specifically, Cooke wants to create two new large sites in the Liverpool Bay area (right in front of popular beaches) and expand a current one. They also want to renew their leases for Westport and the Islands.
Cooke Aquaculture Inc. began in 1985 as a small salmon farming company in New Brunswick. Today, it is a vertically integrated seafood farming corporation with operations in Atlantic Canada, United States, Chile, Scotland, Spain, Uruguay, Honduras and Nicaragua. The Cooke family of companies (including Kelly Cove Salmon which runs 12 sites) employs almost 10,000 and include US and South American with annual sales over $2.4 billion.
Cooke needs to answer the same questions as the failed Cermaq proposals. What does it mean to listen to impacted coastal communities, lobster fishers, tourism industries, and municipal governments that have made their opposition clear?
Considering Cooke’s presence in our waters:
- Cooke has never offered to compensate displaced fishers directly
- Cooke continues to be eligible for federal compensation when the fish are ordered culled
- Cooke has a track record of escaped fish and die offs
- Cooke will not promise that the farms won’t create dead zones
- Cooke continues to use chemicals, antibiotics and pesticides to treat sea lice and infectious salmon anemia
- Cooke continues to be secretive with our community
Provincial Government’s job claims are misleading.
In 2018, there were 35 open net pen farms in Nova Scotia, employing 138 full-time workers, 13 year round part-time workers and 38 seasonal part-time workers (less than six months).
Lobster Fishers Opposition
More worrisome, in LA33/34 (Lobster fishing area in St. Mary’s Bay), there are approximately 4000 people directly employed in the lobster fishery alone. There is abundant science, not industry-funded, showing the threat posed by open net finfish farms to lobsters, scallops, clams, herring, mackerel, whales, and the marine habitat. Why would those 4000 jobs be put at risk? So, too, concluded the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fisherman’s Association (January, 2020), and the Maritime Fisherman’s Union, Local #9 (March, 2020).
Negative impact on Tourism
In 2018, tourism in Nova Scotia brought in $2.6 billion. That number was predicted to double in 2020 to over $5.5 billion. Over 30% of tourist visitors to Nova Scotia came to visit Clare, Digby and Annapolis Counties. Those tourist dollars employ hundreds of people in our region through restaurants, retail shops, markets, summer rentals, motels, and whale watching. As the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (2020) publicly wrote, land-based fish farming should be prioritized, not open net fish farming that potentially threatens the ecological health of Nova Scotia waters and the tourism industry.
We call upon our elected officials to:
- Reject the current open net finfish farm expansion applications by Cooke’s Aquaculture and its subsidiaries.
- Support a moratorium on the expansion of open net pen finfish farms in our bays and coastal waters.
- Support a permanent moratorium on open net fish farms in Nova Scotia coastal waters.
- And in the meantime, support enacting Nova Scotia regulations on aquaculture to include
- Explicitly acknowledge the fundamental principle of community control, including fully informed consent, and a public referendum on any open net finfish proposals anywhere in this province.
- Increase transparency by way of mandatory public monthly reporting by all current open net finfish sites (and independently verified) on any disease issues, kills, culls, escapes, public financial compensation, the direct or indirect use of any chemicals and/or insecticides, as well as regular certified analysis of their fish feed detailing its composition.
What does open net-pen aquaculture mean for you?
- polluted shoreline and beaches
- loss of scenic views
- reduced lobster catches
- impacts to lobster nurseries
- harmful impacts to ecosystem
- threat to endangered species
- displacement of fishers from fishing ground
- reputational harm to tourism
- diminished demand for real estate
- decline of endangered wild salmon stock
- reduced use of marine resources
- minimal benefit to local economy
- dead zones on sea floor
In the news:
(click on each for the full story)
April 22, 2015 — Municipal councillor David Tudor says fishermen told him months ago that cages just off Long Island in St. Mary’s Bay at a site operated by Cooke Aquaculture, were in rough shape and the fishermen were concerned about the cages coming apart.
“They were aware and said they wanted to get in and remove the cages but they were waiting for the ice and snow to clear up,” said Gregory.
Tudor says the fishermen’s prediction has come true and now they are finding parts of the salmon cage tangled up with their fishing gear, some fishing gear has been carried away and others destroyed by the debris says Tudor.
Feb. 22, 2013 — Some residents in southwestern Nova Scotia say they’re concerned about storms and the impact on aquaculture operations after salmon cages in the area were damaged by a recent storm.
Alex Patterson, who lives in Freeport near St. Marys Bay, said she’s worried farmed salmon from a Cooke Aquaculture site may be escaping into the wild.