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Jordan Bay: a jewel hocked for fish farming

May 7, 2013 – 5:28pm GLORIA GILBERT

    A Cooke Aquaculture employee works at the site of a salmon farm in the Bay of Fundy off Meteghan last summer. Meanwhile, some residents of Jordan Bay, near Shelburne, fear the idyllic setting will be spoiled if plans for two mega-project fish farms proceed.ADRIEN VECZAN•Staff

    A Cooke Aquaculture employee works at the site of a salmon farm in the Bay of Fundy off Meteghan last summer. Meanwhile, some residents of Jordan Bay, near Shelburne, fear the idyllic setting will be spoiled if plans for two mega-project fish farms proceed.

    Jordan Bay. Drive south from Jordan Ferry and stop where the view over the mouth of the harbour takes your breath away.

    From high on the hillside, the rocky shoals, islands and beaches draw your eye from breaking waves to sheltered coves, ponds and salt marshes.

    The harbour buoys mark out a complex route for the fishing boats to find safe passage into the small haven behind Locke’s Island. A grassy island reveals its population of breeding bird colonies and the darker loom of Blue Island guards the outer margin of the mainland on the far side.

    This is another of Nova Scotia’s beauty spots. Stunning!

    Come closer. Walk the rugged shoreline and cobble beach to Demings Island. See where the ocean throws up wrack kelp and eelgrass, combings from the seabed. This is where a rich and productive estuary meets the sea.

    Idyllic. Jordan Bay is one of many harbours and inlets along the Atlantic coast, home ports for small fleets of lobster boats and their traditional, sustainable work, a billion-dollar industry owned in Nova Scotia. To the east are Port Mouton and Liverpool Bay. Next harbour to the west is Shelburne.

    Ironic. Jordan Bay lobster fishermen began their season on Nov. 26 under a cloud of anxiety that darkened the mood in this place of peaceful living and responsible resource management.

    The province had accepted proposals for two mega-project fish farms in Jordan Bay. No wonder the fishermen are worried! The track record of the fish-farming industry in Nova Scotia is dismal. No other farming industry in the world is allowed to use the ocean as an open manure dump. Fish-farm parasites and viruses have made news throughout Atlantic Canada and in B.C.

    A week before Christmas, the dreaded announcement came. The approvals, it turns out, had been granted and leases drawn up at least five months earlier. Fishermen were evicted from lucrative lobster bottom through a media release. The MLA for Jordan Bay is the minister of aquaculture. Is he not also the minister of fisheries?

    Shocking. Imagine you are a female lobster, migrating in from the sea, bringing your eggs to a sheltered place in Jordan Bay … and encountering a sludge of fish feces across the entire mouth of the bay.

    Lobsters have a keen sense for oxygen levels and pollutants. Near the farms, they will encounter hydrogen sulphide, ammonia and methane — enough to either repel them or compromise their health. If the farms are using pesticides and drugs, the threat is multiplied.

    Residents of Port Wade have documented medicated feed being used on a fish farm in the Annapolis Basin three months into the first production cycle. Have local harvesters been notified that mackerel, shellfish and lobsters may be ingesting the drugged feed? Did the minister of fisheries concern himself with these impacts?

    Decision. It is clearly understandable why Jordan Bay fishermen do not want this industry in their harbour.

    Frustration. On Aug. 31 last year, representatives from various interest groups and communities met with top government officials at the request of the premier’s office. The stated purpose was to explore possible collaborative efforts to examine how the province’s aquaculture strategy might be implemented to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.

    Community groups asked the province to place all farm applications on hold while this process was undertaken. Little did they know that the mega-farm experiment that started in St. Mary’s Bay in July 2011 was already approved for repetition in Jordan Bay.

    Paper. An aquaculture strategy that ignores science and fails to acknowledge fish-farm failures is not worth the paper it is written on. Using precious taxpayer dollars to fund such a “strategy” is reckless. Commitments in the aquaculture strategy to improving communications are a joke. Communities have repeatedly asked government to engage with fishermen and residents. It’s not happening.

    Empty words. Last week, the NDP created yet another hiding place in the form of a committee to improve regulations. There is no right way to do the wrong thing. The yellow buoys already mark out 200 acres exclusive to a polluting corporation. Cages are being towed to Jordan Bay from Shelburne Harbour, where farms should still be under quarantine.

    Stand on the slope above Jordan Bay. See, hear, feel and smell a sustainable seaside community. Taste the salt air. Remember that the people here have known what is right for themselves and their environment for hundreds of years. Feel regret for a small community overpowered by a recalcitrant government and a greedy corporation. Industrial fish farming does not belong here.