By Scott Costen
Cooke Aquaculture put a check mark in a box tonight.
The seafood giant is an “option holder” while it “scopes out” expanded fish farming in Liverpool Bay. This evening’s open house at Queens Place Emera Centre satisfied a provincial requirement to have a “two-way conversation with (the) community to help inform ultimate site location and configuration.”
Cooke and its subsidiary Kelly Cove Salmon, which operates the current Liverpool fish farm, did not hold this open house out of the goodness of their hearts. They were forced to hold it under a new provincial process that will ultimately require them to convene “at least one public meeting in the community closest to the area proposed for the site.” That, of course, means Beach Meadows.
According to a Cooke staffer, more than 135 people filed into the open house in the first 30 minutes. I spoke with about a dozen people who attended the event. All but one expressed serious concerns about Cooke’s expansion plans.
As promised, Cooke had a number of staff on hand to answer questions. These included management types, operations workers and a very friendly veterinarian. The company’s vice-president of public relations was accommodating to all media, including the Queens Observer.
Also manning booths at the event were the industry’s official cheerleader, the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia, as well as marine assessment and monitoring company SIMCorp.
Free swag (ball caps, water bottles, wrist bands, etc.) and food (including smoked salmon) were plentiful. Printed materials were also readily available, including the Aquaculture Activity Book, which targets children with industry propaganda (see image below).
While Cooke mounted an impressive PR effort this evening, I suspect local opposition to the company’s expansion plans will remain strong.
To those opponents, I recommend making your views known to MLA Kim Masland, who was at tonight’s event.
Aquaculture licenses are issued by the province. Masland, in addition to being our provincial representative, is also her party’s fisheries critic.