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Expressing concern that New Brunswick-based multi-national salmon grower Cooke Aquaculture "has a massive expansion planned for Nova Scotia", the St. Mary’s Bay Coastal Coalition announced a public meeting in Freeport on Tuesday to discuss the implications of using dangerous chemical to treat sea lice infestations common in the open net salmon pens used by Cooke and other industrial growers. The meeting will take place at 6:00pm at the Freeport Fire Hall.

The meeting notice reminded recipients of the recent charges by Environment Canada against Cooke founder and CEO Glenn Cooke and two other senior executives for discharging the banned pesticide cypermethrin into cages near Bay of Fundy lobster pounds, resulting in the immediate deaths of thousands of lobsters.

The meeting notice describes cypermethrin as "lethal to many types of shellfish".  Although Cooke Aquaculture repeatedly says they have not treated for sea lice on their farms in Nova Scotia, the Coalition claims there are instances when treatments for sea lice have been used in Nova Scotia farms and with the development of salmon feedlots in Nova Scotia bays by Cooke Aquaculture, says the Coalition, "treatments for sea lice will very likely be necessary."

The letter to Mr. Harper, signed by twenty or more marine stewardship groups across Canada, urges him not to approve changes in regulations which would allow the use of cypermethrin and other toxic pesticides. In part, the letter cautioned that ,"the use of eco-toxic pesticides by the open net-pen aquaculture industry is clearly in contravention of section 36 of the Fisheries Act which regulates the deposition of “deleterious substances” into the marine environment. It appears that rather than requiring this industry to develop management and/or operational practices that would minimize their impact on marine resources (such as closed containment), DFO’s proposed response is to continue to allow practices that contravene legislation (i.e. sections 36 and 32 of the Fisheries Act) and cause harm to the environment. These proposed regulations would explicitly allow the use of pesticides approved by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency, and undermine the sections of the Fisheries Act best equipped to protect the marine environment."

Special invitations have been sent to fish harvesters and buyers and several documents were attached to the notice, including a poster for the meeting, a chemical "fact sheet", a "backgrounder on sea lice and pesticides, a news release about the pesticide use charges and a copy of a recent letter sent by concerned citizens to Prime Minister Harper. There was also a link attached to a recent Digby Courier story about the pesticide charges.

The meeting will feature presentations by marine biologist Inka Milewski, who has spent more than a decade investigating and reporting on the impacts of open net salmon farms on the marine environment and Matt Abbott of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick Fundy Baykeeper. Abbott  will outline what is currently happening in Nova Scotia in relation to open net salmon farming.

"The future of our wild fisheries is of utmost importance to our communities," said Coalition chair Karen Crocker, "and we need to take action and be part of this process, or we will all be left behind."

A similar meeting open to just harvesters will take place on Monday in Jordan Bay.