Cooke Aquaculture said that it moved a shoreline clean-up and barbecue to Brooklyn from Coffin Island over concerns that they could not keep volunteers safe from "activists" who had vowed to show up and protest the company's proposed fish pen expansion in Liverpool Bay.
"When we learned that an activist group was planning to be in the area around the wharf, we decided not to put our people and volunteers on boats to go to Coffin Island. Safety is our top priority and we did not want to put people in a situation where marine safety could be compromised," Joel Richardson, vice-president of communications for Cooke Aquaculture told LighthouseNOW in an email.
Coffin Island is near the company's Liverpool Bay aquaculture operations.
Forty people showed up at Brooklyn Marina, August 13 to protest the aquaculture company's effort to sponsor a trip to Coffin Island to clean up the shoreline.
The protesters, supporting Protect Liverpool Bay (PLB), called the cancellation of the clean-up a victory.
"I think it was a successful day. This is obviously a marketing ploy for Cooke who wants to come and pretend that they are working with the community," said Brian Muldoon founder of PLB. "We are not against cleaning up Nova Scotia."
He added that the company hadn't shown up in any other year to help clean up.
"It's only because there is a licence before the review board. They think they're winning over the community, but the community has a voice and they do not want open-pen fish farms in Liverpool Bay," said Muldoon.
Cooke Aquaculture sent an open invitation to anyone who wanted to attend to help with the clean-up, which also included a free barbecue. They teamed up with Clean Nova Scotia and the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia for the event. The event popped up on the Brooklyn Marina Facebook page just a few days beforehand.
Richardson said that it was unfortunate that the Protect Liverpool Bay activist group, that claims to be environmentally focused would protest a beach clean-up.
"Most people would agree that a better use of their time would have been to pick up some garbage bags and take real action towards environmental stewardship by helping to keep the Region of Queens Municipality clean like our group did," he added.
Richardson said Cooke Aquaculture employees team up with residents and partners throughout Atlantic Canada each year to help clean up in areas that they farm as a commitment to sustainability of the marine environment. He noted that they have done about a dozen clean-ups throughout Atlantic Canada this summer.
Instead of going out to Coffin Island, those that were on hand for the clean up were divided into crews and sent to waterfront areas and along roadsides in the Brooklyn area.. The crew picked up a "trailer load" of trash from the area, according to Richardson.
Muldoon said PLB is planning for a general meeting in September to update the public on their work.
Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd., a subsidiary of Cooke Aquaculture, wants to expand its current 14-pen fish farm in Liverpool Bay to 20 pens, as well as add two more, 20-pen farms, and has applied for a permit for the expansion.
If approved, this could add 1.8 million salmon into the area, up from the current 400,000 estimated contained in the current 14 pens.
The licence application is currently under review by an independent board that may take up to seven months. In turn, the board will call an adjudicated public hearing, expected for sometime this fall.