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Major damage suffered by Cooke Aquaculture industrial salmon farm, site 1358

In a recent winter storm on the coast of Nova Scotia, an industrial open net aquaculture farm near Jordan Bay suffered major damage, possibly resulting in the likely escape and death of thousands of fish. In a recent news report, Cooke Aquaculture officials told reporters that “the fish are likely fine.”

Aquaculture activist Darrell Tingley says that first hand reports he has heard and photos taken from the site suggest that Cooke officials and the spokesperson with the Nova Scotia Department of Environment are “spinning a yarn” in their assertions that no fish have been lost or killed at aquaculture site 1358 in Jordan Bay, calling the assertion “sheer fantasy”. 

Ricky Hallett, a lobster fisherman out of West Green Harbour, said he could see the Atlantic salmon cages from shore and they sure didn’t look good.

Debris from the pens was strewn along the coast, with buoys, bits of plastic and pipes washed up, and the cages appeared to be out of position, having been shoved around by the weather, he said.

Hallett said that the pen moorings were dragged loose, the buoys on the pen are “now slack” and most of the structural corner buoys are gone so that the moorings are no longer taut.

The bird netting for the pens has become “ghost nets” that can foul boat propellers or entangle wildlife, said Hallett, and the other debris could also be an environmental or navigational hazard. With the condition of the cages, it looks like the fish either died or escaped, he said.

“From what I’m looking at here from shore . . . structurally, if you’ve got moorage compromised and the pens are destroyed, it kind of looks like they’ve got to start over again,” said Hallett.

Tingley recounted that there were two recent storms which “hammered” site 1358 over 10 days. He said that the most recent storm moved the salmon cages, sending three corner buoys sailing and ripping the vast majority of bird cages off, adding that there was “severe structural damage” to many of the cages and debris was spread over and under the bay.

“The site should be inspected by Environment Canada and DFO before the company carries out any work,” Tingley said.

Tingley challenges the government assertion that inspectors had been on the site, saying that residents and fishers from West Green Harbour report the vessel carrying these individuals never went near site 1358. “They cruised along the shore,” he added, “possibly looking for debris or perhaps they were sightseeing!”

It’s likely caged salmon, alive or dead, have escaped from site 1358, Tingley added, with the majority of the remaining caged salmon deceased or severely injured with massive scale damage, ensuring certain death. In addition, the cages are partially filled with sediment from the undertow, suffocating those that may have survived. “How can this industry be given permits to kill and injure salmon en masse?”,” Tingley asked in a letter to provincial and federal government authorities, asking that site 1358 be closed until federal inspectors from Environment Canada and/or DFO can do a proper inspection and that a stop-work order should be put in place until a decision is made by Environment Canada and/or DFO to keep or remove certification for site 1358.

He also suggests that all industrial materials placed on the West Green Harbour wharf by Cooke Aqua should be removed.