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Aquaculture Minister Belliveau plays fast and loose with facts

"Science," "community consultation" and where's the aquaculture strategy for NS?

by St. Mary’s Bay Coastal Alliance

In a June 9 interview on CBC Information Morning, Nova Scotia Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau stated that a rigorous scientific process was followed prior to approval of the mega salmon aquaculture site for St. Mary's Bay.  What the Minister failed to disclose was that the scientific process he is referring to was an environmental screening - the lowest level of review possible under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA).  The screening did not take into consideration: socio-economic issues, fish habitat, cumulative effects, and the impact on traditional fisheries and fishers. This is not good, solid science.

The Minister stated that he has visited and met with community members on numerous occasions. This is not true.  After repeated requests, Minister Belliveau met with us in Digby in December 2010 and again in April of this year. Digby is a 2-hour return trip for community members, meaning many could not attend the meetings. Both times, Mr. Belliveau refused to comment on the proposal, stating that it was still in the federal environmental review process. At the second meeting on April 30, we had in hand a copy of the Federal final screening report. At that time, the public had 30 days to provide additional comments.

Minister Belliveau stated that he had not seen or read the report and would not comment on it until the 30 day period had passed. Today, I was notified by the Federal environmental officer responsible for the review that the Province had received a letter dated June 2, 2011 that the CEAA screening was completed and the application approved at the federal level.  On June 8, 2011, three working days later, Minister Belliveau made his decision.  Minister Belliveau had ensured the citizens of St. Margaret’s Bay that once he was in receipt of this report, he could then rigorously review it and address the numerous comments and concerns made by SMBCA and local fishermen and residents over the last 15 to 16 months.  Hundreds of letters of concerns and requests for additional information have ever been addressed. For the Minister to state that he has met with the community and alleviated the concerns of fishers and community members is not true.

The Minister also states that the environmental footprint from these fin fish farms would be minimal in relation to the size of the bay.  And that the LFA 34 area runs from the shoreline to about 50 miles away from land.  What he fails to mention is that St. Mary’s Bay is a small bay, only about 8 km wide, and that 70 % of the annual catch of lobster from LFA 34 is caught by the inshore fishery -  the fisheries that will be immediately affected by this lease/license.  He also fails to mention that these leases in St. Mary’s will be in addition to already existing fish farming operations, and that no one is looking at the cumulative effects of all of these fish farms interacting with each other (even though this is specifically required in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.) 

Additionally, for the Minister not to be able to accurately answer the question of how many salmon sites are currently operating in Nova Scotia is unacceptable, considering his responsibility to evaluate how the affects of these sites are compounded in regards to pollution of the marine environment. 

The important decisions on whether to allow open net salmon farms proliferate on our Nova Scotia coastline are being made in a vacuum - our province does not even have an aquaculture strategy. 


Karen Crocker, Chair

St. Mary’s Bay Coastal Alliance



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