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HALIFAX HERALD:

NOV 14, 2011

Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Sterling Belliveau must stop issuing open-pen salmon farm leases, some of his constituents say.

“Jordan Bay has a lucrative lobster nursery,” Marilyn Moore, a Jordan Bay, Shelburne County, resident and member of Mayday-Shelburne County, said Monday in an interview.

“Lobster fishermen are extraordinarily concerned about the likelihood they are going to be damaged by these salmon farms.”

The community group has co-written an open letter to the Shelburne MLA, co-signed by the St. Mary’s Bay Coastal Alliance and the Eastern Shore Fisherman’s Protective Association, calling on him to protect the province’s lucrative traditional lobster fishery.

The letter refers to recent charges laid against Cooke Aquaculture, a New Brunswick company that has applied to the Nova Scotia government to operate two open-pen salmon farms in Jordan Harbour.

Cooke, which operates salmon farms in Shelburne Harbour, faces charges under the federal Fisheries Act alleging that the company’s use of illegal pesticide in the Bay of Fundy has killed lobsters.

“As we watch events unfolding in (New Brunswick), we can easily see what the future has in store for our province if the minister continues the promotion of industrial open-pen aquaculture,” the letter said.

It charges that industry practices, including overstocking large farms, have led to parasite and disease outbreaks that have prompted the use of pesticides and antibiotics to protect aquaculture investments.

“These practices are completely contrary to sustainability,” it said.

The letter further alleges that Belliveau has been made aware of pollution caused by salmon farming in Shelburne Harbour and Port Mouton Bay, and claims his department has never taken any remedial action.

“The real social and environmental costs of the open-pen salmon farming industry are being borne by Nova Scotia’s coastal communities.”

Moore said the community groups would like to see more focus on environmentally sensitive aquaculture technologies such as land-based, closed-containment systems that would create sustainable, long-term jobs without displacing traditional fishermen.

Aquaculture industry officials recently told a parliamentary committee in Ottawa that contained fish farms, which use recirculated, filtered water and transform fish waste into fertilizer, are a niche business comparable to free-range or organic products.

Moore, who charged that local fishermen haven’t been consulted about the proposed Jordan Bay salmon farms, said any new venture or technology can involve higher startup costs.

“Hopefully, with more investment, costs will come down,” she said, suggesting that the benefits outweigh the obstacles.

Belliveau wasn’t available for comment Monday.

Greg Roach, the associate deputy fisheries and aquaculture minister, said his department respects the views expressed in the letter, but it has a responsibility to work with all marine interests.

“The salmon industry is sea cages all over the world,” Roach said in an interview.

While the department is interested in sustainable practices, closed-containment systems have yet to prove commercially viable, he said.

Roach said the department follows a thorough assessment process before approving aquaculture applications.

And while he takes fishery-related charges such as those levied against Cooke in New Brunswick seriously, Roach said he wasn’t aware of any similar investigations taking place in Nova Scotia.

(berskine@herald.ca)

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