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An underwater view of a school of salmon swimming through blue water.

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press release

Community groups and individuals call on NS government to prioritize communities and enforce aquaculture laws

January 13, 2021

HALIFAX/K’JIPUKTUK, UNCEDED TERRITORY OF THE MI’KMAQ PEOPLE – Ecojustice lawyers, on behalf of community groups and affected individuals, are demanding that the Nova Scotia Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and Minister of Environment put the rights of communities and the environment ahead of the aquaculture industry’s interests.

The demand letter sent by the group urges the ministers to stop facilitating lease and licence violations at five open-net pen sites operated by Kelly Cove Salmon. They have asked for a response from the government by Mar. 12.

For more than 10 years, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Department of Environment have allowed the company to operate outside of its lease boundaries at five of its open-net pen sites in Nova Scotia. The Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture has facilitated these ongoing lease violations by knowingly accepting lease expansion applications from Kelly Cove Salmon that did not fulfill the requirements of the Aquaculture Lease and Licence Regulations.

The provincial government has never enforced the Aquaculture Lease and Licence Regulations requirement for Kelly Cove Salmon to hold public information meetings before submitting lease expansion applications for these sites. In essence, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture has unlawfully granted Kelly Cove Salmon de facto lease expansions at these sites without requiring the company to go through the legally mandated approval process.

As confirmed by the 2014 Doelle-Lahey report, open-net salmon farming poses significant threats to the survival of wild salmon populations in Nova Scotia, including the risk of exposing wild salmon to contagious diseases, viruses and parasites. The report further emphasized that to limit these threats, the government must step up and enforce regulations and licence requirements in the aquaculture sector.

Ecojustice lawyers are acting on behalf of Protect Liverpool Bay Association, the St. Mary’s Bay Protectors, the Association for the Preservation of the Eastern Shore, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Brad Armstrong and Geoff LeBoutillier on this matter.

The demand letter calls for Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Keith Colwell and Minister of Environment Gordon Wilson to reject Kelly Cove Salmon’s noncompliant applications for lease expansions and to require the company to hold public information meetings before submitting more applications for those sites. The letter also calls for the responsible ministers to ensure that Kelly Cove Salmon comes into compliance with its lease boundaries at all five non-compliant sites until such time as its lease expansion applications are lawfully approved.

Ecojustice lawyers and a representative from the group made the following statement about their calls to action.

Sarah McDonald, Ecojustice lawyer said:

“We’re urging Minister Colwell and Minister Wilson to uphold the law  and require Kelly Cove Salmon to come into compliance with its lease boundaries until its lease expansion applications are lawfully approved by the Aquaculture Review Board.

“By continuing to sit on noncompliant applications while simultaneously allowing Kelly Cove to continue operating outside its lease boundaries, the government is essentially granting Kelly Cove Salmon unlawful lease expansions. Nova Scotians are counting on Minister Wilson and Minister Colwell to stand up for Nova Scotia’s wild fish stocks, the environment and local communities’ legal right to be consulted.”

Brian Muldoon, Protect Liverpool Bay said:

“For too long Kelly Cove Salmon has been allowed to sidestep the law and operate outside its lease boundaries. This has permitted the company to potentially have more cages, and therefore more fish, on each site than what is permitted by their lease. This is bad news for the province’s wild fish stocks and for our communities. It’s time for the ministers to start following the province’s laws and ensure Nova Scotia’s communities have a seat at the table before aquaculture lease expansion applications are approved.”