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Results from a federal right-to-information request made by the community group Mayday-Shelburne County regarding the review process underway for industrial salmon farms in Jordan Bay, Nova Scotia, shed a disturbing light on the cozy relationship between the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture (NSDFA) and the aquaculture industry, says community group Mayday-Shelburne County.

Minutes from the monthly “regulator meetings” reveal the NSDFA and Cooke Aquaculture have been working together to put pressure on fishermen and community members in order to further the interests of the aquaculture industry, says a news release. According to the documents, senior NSDFA staffers offered to “follow up” on reports by Cooke Aquaculture in Feb. 2011 that “only two residents in Jordan Bay do not like aquaculture “. The same documents reveal that a Cooke official had already met with them and “progress had been made.”

“We know for a fact, that on at least two separate occasions an NSDFA representative visited the homes of fishermen in an attempt to get them to withdraw their opposition to the placement of salmon farms in Jordan Bay,” said Mayday-Shelburne County representative Sindy Horncastle.

The documents also revealed that the poor quality of baseline information submitted by Cooke Aquaculture was discussed. Despite the lack of information, a senior Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) official concluded that no further information was necessary.

“It seems that quality scientific information is not a requirement of DFO or the NSDFA.  Our own Deputy Minister of Fisheries, Paul LeFleche has stated that the NSDFA has no scientific capacity,” says Horncastle. “It defies logic that a coastal development strategy would be based upon a total lack of science.”

According to Mayday-Shelburne County, the documents show a complete lack of transparency and scientific scrutiny of aquaculture development by the provincial government, as well as a total exclusion of fishermen and residents of fishing communities from the decision-making process.

“These documents are proof that the NSDFA has never had any intention of consulting with fishermen,” commented Jordan Bay lobster fisherman Ricky Hallett, “This shows that our own government is interested only in aquaculture promotion at any cost – no science necessary !”

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