Multi-million dollar deal dead in the water…
Clearwater Seafoods Inc. chairman Colin MacDonald told reporters Wednesday that the $100 million hostile takeover of Clearwater by New Brunswick-based aquaculture giant Cooke Aquaculture is dead in the water after CEO Glenn Cooke and two other senior executives were charged by Environment Canada Enforcement Division with 11 counts each of illegally dispersing dangerous pesticides in the Bay of Fundy, resulting in the deaths of thousands of lobsters.
"There is absolutely no activity now on the proposed deal by Cooke," McDonald said. "With these charges, I think they have other things to be concerned about." MacDonald and Clearwater co-founder John Risley have spurned the unwanted advances of Glenn Cooke and his growing half-billion dollar empire.
Clearwater reported lobster kills to DFO…
One of the most intiguing parts of the MacDonald’s statements was the admission by McDonald that Clearwater employees were some of the complaintants in the lobster deaths near Deer Island and Grand Manan in 2009. "We had thousands of lobsters killed by what we now know was cypermethrin," said McDonald, "and our people reported it to DFO." (Department of Fisheries and Oceans)
Environment Canada charged Kelly Cove Salmon, a division of Cooke Aquaculture, and Cooke and other senior company officials with allegedly releasing a cypermethrin-based pesticide into the waters of Maces Bay, Passamoquoddy Bay as well as the waters surrounding Deer Island and Grand Manan Island between November 2009 and November 2010. Cypermethrin is not authorized for use in marine environments, and is harmful to crustaceans including, but not limited to, lobster and shrimp. $33 million in fines and 99 years in prison are the maximum penalties faced by Glenn Cooke and his colleagues. The first court date for Cooke on the current charges is December 13.
In a story in the Chronicle Herald on Friday, Clearwater appeared to be backtracking on earlier statements about what the Herald called "murky" sources of the pesticide complaints, with Glenn Cooke saying he didn’t think Clearwater was involved. Cooke PR cheif Nell Halse told the Herald that Cooke remains interested in acquiring Clearwater.
Adding insult to injury…
Other fallout from the charges include charges Thursday by community groups who have been questioning Cooke’s practices and policies regarding environmental issues that Cooke’s responses to the charges were "insulting" to all Nova Scotians.
New Brunswick salmon growers have been fighting a losing battle in regards to sea lice for several years, as have growers in Norway, Scotland and Chile. The New Brunswick growers petitioned Health Canada to allow them to use a new treatment, Alpha Max, last year. After trails done by Environment Canada showed that lobster exposed to this chemical died, the request was denied.
Mayday! Shelburne County and St. Mary’s Bay Coastal Alliance say that statements that Cooke has recently made to the people of Nova Scotia about the illegal pesticide charges are "insulting and infuriating." They have long argued that one of the concerns of fishermen and community members of Nova Scotia is how the use of chemicals to treat sea lice can have a harmful effect on the ecology of marine habitat. "These chemicals are lethal to aquatic life, especially crustaceans. Lobster, scallop, shrimp and mussels are all very susceptible to these chemicals," says Karen Crocker of SMBCA.
She says that, in a letter to employees and community members, Cooke trivializes the serious charges they face in for alleged use of this noxious poison by stating in a letter to employees and community members by saying that other countries use the banned poison and that it is sued on golf courses.
Cooke and other growers have been ambitiously lobbying government to support an Integrated Pest Management Plan, which would allow for a wider variety of chemical theraputants to be at the disposal of the salmon farmers to use to help combat sea lice problems. "If our government agrees to this IPMP," says Crocker, "how do they propose to regulate the use of such chemicals?"
In speaking about the charges, Crocker says, "The reason so many community groups have been standing up and demanding that our government rethink its decision to allow the rapid expansion of open net salmon farming in our lucrative fishing grounds is based on circumstances such as this."