By Scott Costen
Opponents of fish farm expansion in Liverpool Bay sent a strong message to Region of Queens council this morning.
Six different people rose in the public gallery to condemn Cooke Aquaculture’s plans to expand its current salmon farming operation near Coffin Island. Several of them called on the municipality to help scuttle the expansion by registering its official disapproval with provincial authorities.
Milton resident Kristen Lewis brought her daughters Petina and Greta to the meeting.
Holding up a handmade protest sign, Lewis told council that “fish farms have no place here.” She referred to aquaculture sites as a form of environmental “pollution” and made an emotional plea for council to do what it can to prevent more sites from coming to Queens County.
Cooke Aquaculture representatives briefed council on their plans for Liverpool Bay on Oct. 23. During their presentation, they said no chemicals are used at the salmon farm and that sea lice are not a problem in Nova Scotia, as they have been in New Brunswick.
Company officials said the current Liverpool Bay fish farm provides 10 local jobs, but declined to comment on any new jobs being created if the expansion goes through.
Brian Muldoon, part of the newly formed advocacy group Protect Liverpool Bay, contradicted several of Cooke’s assertions during this morning’s meeting. The Beach Meadows resident claimed to have a document proving the company “lied” when it said sea lice have not been an issue on Nova Scotia fish farms. The Observer has not reviewed the document or verified Muldoon’s claims.
Muldoon also disputed the local employment numbers provided by Cooke. He said that, based on his own observations, he believes the number is lower than 10. Expanded fish farming in Liverpool Bay would jeopardize far more jobs in the traditional fishing industry, he told council.
Another Beach Meadows resident, Anne Laws, also questioned Cooke Aquaculture’s credibility. She cited a well-documented $500,000 penalty imposed on the company for illegally using an agricultural pesticide on a fish farm in New Brunswick. She also pointed to Washington state’s decision to eliminate open-pen fish farms following an incident involving Cooke operations. An estimated 263,000 farmed salmon were released into the Pacific Ocean as a result of the incident. Cooke was later fined US$332,000.
Speaking to the public gallery, Mayor David Dagley indicated council remains undecided on the issue. “We have not taken a position,” he said. “Council is looking at all information that is available.”
He reminded those in attendance that aquaculture licensing is a provincial responsibility. The municipality is “not in control” of Cooke’s application, he said.