Councillors share thoughts on aquaculture

By Scott Costen

As a whole, Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) council has no position on Cooke Aquaculture’s “scoping” of Liverpool Bay, or on the company’s possible application to expand its fish farming operations near Coffin Island.

Our municipal legislative body is reserving judgement until scientific reports are filed or a formal application is made. Mayor David Dagley has maintained this wait-and-see approach for several months, despite the fact council has heard a presentation from company officials, received a briefing from provincial fisheries staff and been in regular communication with fish farm opponents.

While collectively mute on sea-based aquaculture, some individual councillors have formed their own opinions on the subject. We reached out to representatives from all seven electoral districts in RQM. Here’s how they responded to questions about aquaculture in South Queens.

Kevin Muise (District 1)

Did not respond.

Heather Kelly (District 2)

“I certainly have my own views on the subject of fish farms. However, there are many things to consider,” Kelly told the Observer by email. “I certainly appreciate the public views and comments we have been receiving. I always welcome the views of the community, as that is who we represent and it is important that council is aware of those views.”

Kelly said she would like to work with council and local residents “to ensure that environmental concerns from the community are made known to Cooke Aquaculture and that Cooke Aquaculture does (its) due diligence during this scoping project.” If an application is submitted, she wants to ensure the Nova Scotia Aquaculture Review Board “has all the facts from the applicant, the council, the public, and community groups and businesses that could be impacted…”

Brian Fralic (District 3)
“Personally, I have deep concern for ANY project which may threaten the environment and the future of our residents,” Fralic wrote in a brief email response.

“As part of council, we must rely on gathering ALL information before making a decision,” he said.

Susan MacLeod (District 4)

“I have not been convinced that an expansion to the current fish farm in Liverpool Bay is the right thing to do in support of the industry,” MacLeod responded. “Community economic benefit is my primary focus and at this time there does not appear to be enough balance between the impact of expansion versus what the municipality will achieve for jobs and related benefits.”

MacLeod reiterated that aquaculture licensing is a provincial rather than a municipal responsibility. She did not reject fish farming outright, but did offer some caveats. I do believe in aquaculture, either land or ocean-based,” she said. “However, we must make sure that it is done right and at the expense of no one.” She added: “I have been listening to those who are opposed to the expansion and new proposed sites. I hear their concerns which are valid.”

Jack Fancy (District 5)

In an interview with the Observer, Fancy indicated that his primary objective is the protection of Queens County beaches.

“Our population is declining all the time and we’re trying to get new people here,” he said. “Our beaches are a major part of our infrastructure. They’re also our biggest tourist attraction.”

Cooke Aquaculture’s scoping area in Liverpool Bay currently ranges from Western Head to West Berlin. Fancy would like to see it narrowed to exclude areas near local beaches. “We have to protect them,” he said. “We cannot afford to have them jeopardized.”

Raymond Fiske (District 6)

Declined to participate.

Gil Johnson (District 7)

“I am clearly decided that I don’t agree on any expansion until I can be assured we get it right,” Johnson wrote in an email. For him, getting it “right” means establishing safeguards, checking against “long-term impacts for generations” and controlling growth.

“I have no issue with aquaculture so long it provides a safe, cost-effective product, has no negative effects on the environment and will support growth of Queens County,” he said. “Resistance to expansion has to be strategic and not based on personal passion.”

Johnson suggested council take a broader view of the issue. “We need to shift focus from Cooke’s operation and deal with fish farms globally,” he said. “Once we open the door, with an impression we will support such ventures, we will be inundated with requests. And if we let one in, how do we keep others out?”

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3 comments

  1. Thank you to Scott Costen of the Queens Observer for this article and to the Councillors of RQM who have expressed their concerns openly for the public.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Finally…Scott you have achieved what the Public has not been able to do. The majority of Councillors have expressed views that are not in favour of Aquaculture with risks that threaten our natural coastal . environments. I thank them and you for this and hope that collectively the Council of RQM has one voice !!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Mr. Costen for continuing to write about this issue. And for following up with the councillors-as this is (for most) the first time we’ve heard any support for protecting Liverpool Bay! (Even though it is limited and not enough) .

    Liked by 1 person

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