Newfoundland fish farming project requires fulsome environmental assessment
St. John’s – Ecojustice, on behalf of grassroots groups and individuals concerned about the health of wild Atlantic salmon stocks, welcomes the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador’s decision on the Indian Head Hatchery Expansion Project.
Ecojustice went to court in November 2019 on behalf of the Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland, the Freshwater-Alexander Bays Ecosystem Corporation, the Port Au Port Bay Fishery Committee, Alan Pickersgill, John Baird and Wayne Holloway to close a regulatory loophole for fish farms in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Today’s ruling confirms that aquaculture projects in the Province can’t proceed without a robust and comprehensive environmental assessment, which means the Province must now strengthen its regulatory approach.
Northern Harvest Smolt (a subsidiary of Mowi) is proposing an expansion of the Stephenville facility which provides smolt to Northern Harvest Sea Farms. Such an expansion poses a threat to wild Atlantic salmon populations that are already in decline.
Ecojustice lawyers, on behalf of their clients, went to court to ensure that the environmental assessment for the Indian Head Hatchery expansion would include the project’s marine portion – that is, the addition of 2.2 million salmon smolt to open-net pens off the south coast of Newfoundland.
Recent mass die-offs of farmed salmon, such as the death of millions of fish in Northern Harvest’s pens in Fortune Bay, have indicated the need for proper environmental assessments of these projects. Today’s ruling is a positive step towards closing a regulatory loophole in environmental assessments of fishing farming projects in the Province.
Sarah McDonald, Ecojustice lawyer said:
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador has confirmed that aquaculture projects in the Province can’t proceed without a robust and comprehensive environmental assessment. Today’s ruling means the Province must now strengthen its regulatory approach.
“Regulatory shortcuts could have devastating effects on populations of wild Atlantic salmon in Newfoundland and Labrador. Poorly-regulated fish farm operations create environmental messes.
“Today’s result closes a glaring loophole in the way aquaculture is regulated in the Province, and will help minimize threats to wild salmon.”
John Baird, President of the Freshwater-Alexander Bays Ecosystem Corporation, said:
“Salmon conservation groups are very happy with this ruling. Open net farms can no longer be developed in this province without proper environmental review. The court’s decision has taken into account public concerns that ocean salmon farming is endangering wild salmon on the south coast along with other species and the coastal ecosystem as a whole. We will be watching closely to ensure that the environmental assessment for this project is sufficiently rigorous and mindful of real concerns about this industry’s impacts.”