But fish farm denies 500,000 missing in St. Marys Bay
CHRONICLE HERALD: 29FEB2012: BRUCE ERSKINE
A Digby-area community group concerned about aquaculture in Nova Scotia says 500,000 farmed salmon have gone missing in St. Marys Bay — a claim the farm’s owner denies.
The St. Marys Bay Coastal Alliance, based on Long Island and Brier Island, alleges there are only 100,000 to 150,000 fish swimming in one of two St. Marys Bay aquaculture sites leased by the province to New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture last year.
The alliance said that according to an affidavit filed by Cooke in November 2011 as part of a legal action the group has brought against the province for approving the leases, there should be 650,000 fish there.
“Where are the other 500,000?” said alliance member Alex Patterson in an interview Tuesday.
Cooke spokeswoman Nell Halse said Tuesday that the alliance’s allegations are false.
“We have about 650,000 fish on the Grand Passage site,” she said, adding that Cooke decided to consolidate fish from its nearby Freeport site in the fall.
Halse expressed some exasperation at what she called misinformation being spread by the alliance.
“People have to stop considering us a fly-by-night operation,” she said, noting that Cooke, an international company that sells 115 million pounds of farmed salmon annually, has been in business for 25 years.
“We don’t lose masses of fish and we don’t take them to the dump,” she said, referring to another alliance allegation that Cooke trucked dead salmon from its St. Marys Bay operations to the Digby dump.
Halse said dead farmed fish have to be taken to provincially licensed compositing facilities and aren’t accepted at municipal dumps or landfills.
“To behave like a rogue company makes no business sense,” she said.
Halse also questioned an alliance allegation that Marshall Giles, the province’s director of aquaculture, told a local lobster fisherman it was normal for salmon farms to lose 75 per cent of their fish over a production cycle, with most of those losses occurring in the winter.
“I doubt Giles said that,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Hasle said aquaculture operations typically suffer 10 to 15 per cent mortality rates.
Giles is on vacation and couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
Cooke recently euthanized salmon at its Shelburne aquaculture operations suspected of having infectious salmon anemia, but Halse said there is no ISA in St. Marys Bay.
Halse said the alliance has repeatedly turned down Cooke’s requests to meet with the company and she questioned its methods.
“We welcome dialogue and this is not dialogue,” she said of the group’s allegations.
More than 400 Brier Island and Long Island residents, 83 per cent of the population, signed a petition opposing the St. Marys Bay aquaculture development.