Nova Scotia aquaculture regulations need 'fundamental change'

Independent panel calls for low impact, high value sustainable industry

John DeMings jdemings@digbycourier.ca
Published on December 17, 2014

Salmon farms in Grand Passage and Freeport are part of an expanding industry in southwestern Nova Scotia.

©Digby Courier file photo

An independent review panel is calling for major changes in the way the aquaculture industry is regulated in Nova Scotia.

Dalhousie University law professors Meinhard Doelle and William Lahey were appointed in April 2013 to conduct the review, and released their final report Tuesday, Dec. 16.

Release of the report is the final step in the regulatory review of the aquaculture sector in Nova Scotia. The report is available at www.aquaculturereview.ca

Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Colwell said the comprehensive review will now be taken into consideration by the government.

"This review provides valuable information to help develop that regulatory framework for the aquaculture industry," Colwell said in a news release.

In a separate story today, Dec. 17, Cooke Aquaculture Ltd. said expansion plans for Digby Neck and Shelburne are on hold while new Nova Scotia regulations are  established.

As part of its public consultation, the panel held 42 community meetings, and more than 20 targeted meetings with interested organizations and individuals.

The panel also conducted three knowledge workshops with researchers and local experts, and held four public meetings on its draft report this past summer.

In this region, a public meeting was held  July 21 in Yarmouth.

In the news release, panel member Lahey said, “We conclude that a fundamental overhaul of the regulation of aquaculture in Nova Scotia is called for.

“It should be guided by the idea that aquaculture that integrates economic prosperity, social well-being and environmental sustainability is one that is low impact and high value.”

Fellow panelist Doelle added that feedback to a draft version enabled the panel to strengthen its final report in important ways.

Problems with existing regulations and the appointment of the independent panel played a part early this year in a court case involving St. Mary’s Bay Coastal Alliance and Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd.

In July 2011, the coastal alliance appealed a decision by the Fisheries and Aquaculture minister to Kelly Cove for two fish farms in Grand Passage and Freeport. The Grand Passage site was stocked with young salmon at the end of June.

The alliance—a group composed of the villages of Freeport, Tiverton and Westport, as well as Freeport Community Development Association and the Atlantic Salmon Federation—dropped its appeal as a result of negotiations between the alliance members and government.

As a result of the negotiations, the Fisheries and Aquaculture minister announced the appointment of the panel to recommend improvements to the regulatory framework of the aquaculture industry.