A Campbell River-based aquaculture firm will be stepping back from its operations in Nova Scotia, instead focusing on its west-coast work.
Cermaq Canada confirmed it would let all Options to Lease that were awarded by the eastern province expire. The company had said that it would need enough sites to support 20,000 metric tonnes of production to make the venture financially viable. They have not been able to secure the 15-20 sites necessary to make that quota, and will be stepping back from the area.
“We acknowledge there were many people interested in our potential investment as this kind of economic diversification can be very important to rural coastal communities,” added managing director David Kiemele.
As part of their community consultation process, company employees met with the Mi’kmaq First Nation in the province, and other Nova Scotians, including elected officials, business owners and workers in the commercial fishing industry as part of their consultation. However, the company faced opposition from people living the areas identified for farm sites.
Cermaq’s Nova Scotia-focused website posted a letter to Digby Neck, Nova Scotia-area residents which repeats local concerns including “the impacts on local commercial fisheries, pollution, ocean-floor impacts, potential for interaction with marine mammals such as the endangered Right whale, impacts of local tourism (whale watching, tours, etc.), fish welfare, water quality of nearby recreational beaches and overall loss of use.”
“We did hear opposition from some groups and regions, however; a shared path forward is, and always was our goal,” said sustainable development director Linda Sams in a press release about the decision to leave the province. “We engaged with the intent of supporting, or benefiting, existing commercial fishing through shared opportunities, services, research and planning. We think it was a lost opportunity that we didn’t get to have more in-depth conversations in some locations, but we would like to thank everyone who engaged with the intent to learn and share.
The company’s operations will now be solely based in B.C., with locations around Vancouver Island.
In December 2019, the Federal Government’s mandate letter to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard included a direction to “create a responsible plan to transition from open net-pen salmon farming in coastal British Columbia waters by 2025 and begin work to introduce Canada’s first-ever Aquaculture Act.” Which prompted Cermaq to look east.
Aquaculture falls under federal jurisdiction in B.C., but is a provincially mandated area in Nova Scotia. Cermaq were working with the Nova Scotia government through the province’s new aquaculture regulatory framework, which included feasibility and engagement work in Chedabucto Bay, St. Mary’s Bay, Mahone Bay and St. Margaret’s Bay.
Cermaq will be wrapping up the feasibility work in the coming weeks and will be closing their office in the province.