September 13, 2011
In response to a request from a lobster fisherman in Jordan Bay near Shelburne for information regarding previous studies done which suggest that the location for one of new salmon farm leases being considered in Jordan Bay might be a lobster “nursery”, Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture minister Sterling Belliveau wants more than $2000 before he will release the data.
“This is absolutely outrageous,” says West Green Harbour lobster fisherman Ricky Hallett, who made the request. “I’ve been asking questions of the Minister about studies of “berried” (egg-bearing) female lobsters in Jordan Bay for some time and finally I get this response from him.” What was even more insulting, says Hallett, is that the first response from the department to his freedom of information request was a phone call from a staffer in which she said he might have to pay as much as $9000.
At every public and private meeting Belliveau has attended and been questioned on the science surrounding the placement of open net, industrial scale fish farms near sensitive lobster grounds and other species habitat, the minister (and Shelburne MLA) has said that he and his department possess adequate scientific data to ensure no harm will come to existing fisheries or tot the ecosystem.
“This is a prime example of how this government treats the serious efforts of citizens to understand the science behind the controversial placement of salmon farms so close to lobster and other critical fisheries,” says Mayday Shelburne County organizer and Jordan Bay resident Sindy Horncastle.
“I’ve questioned Sterling Belliveau on this issue on many occasions,” added Hallett. “At a LFA 33 meeting in Bridgewater in June, he said all of my and other fishermen’s questions would be answered at a public meeting in Shelburne.” Belliveau did not attend the July 12 meeting and questions regarding the berried females met with no response from Belliveau’s staff or DFO staff in attendance.
Some of the charges from the department include accessing and reviewing the information, which the department told Hallet amounts to at least 1500 pages. “As far as I am concerned,” says Hallett, “it is criminal for the minister to charge me or anyone for scientific data. Since they know there are at least 1500 pages of relevant science, and since we are two thirds through the review period and decision-making process, this information should already be on his desk and should have been reviewed by the minister. It seems outrageous to me that he now wants to charge a regular fisherman in the area concerned more than $2000 for that same information.” The department demanded a pre-payment of $1070 prior to processing the request. Hallet has not decided whether or not to appeal the $2000 demand from Belliveau’s department.
Recently, another freedom of information request to the Department for science information surrounding fish farms and lobster habitat was met with the response that the department had not one science-related document in its possession and that it had never been allowed to see the reports from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and other departments surrounding salmon aquaculture science
Mayday Shelburne County is coalition of fishermen and citizens in Jordan Bay, Green Harbour and Shelburne who are opposing the granting of industrial fish farms in sensitive ecosystems without adequate scientific justification.
MAYDAY SHELBURNE COUNTY
Contact: Ricky Hallett – 902-656-2760
Sindy Horncastle – 902-875-4771 (eves)