2020-01-15

Info-gathering important to Lunenburg as fish farming firm presents to politicians

by Keith Corcoran

Lunenburg's chief magistrate says it was vital to hear what the second largest salmon farming company in the nation had to say about any future plans that may impact the coastline near the small picturesque town.

Rachel Bailey and her fellow civic politicians recently heard from Vicki Savoie, Cermaq Canada's sustainable development director on the east coast, who talked about the company's plans.

During a 20-minute presentation, Savoie spoke about the British Columbia company's proposed salmon farming lease options on the books for South Shore area waters ranging between New Harbour Point in Blandford and Pollock Point in the Cherry Hill area, all in Lunenburg County. One of the other proposed areas Cermaq is St. Margarets Bay between the Northwest Cove part of the Aspotogan Peninsula, also in Lunenburg County, and the Indian Harbour area of Halifax County.

Savoie said the options to lease expire in April 2020 but the company, part of Cermaq Global, headquartered Norway and owned by Mitsubishi, will decide well before that date whether or not to apply and make its case to government agencies in order to get approved for more than a dozen fish farms spread around various locations off Nova Scotia, with the South Shore among the possibilities.

"As a council we're not sure if there would be a direct impact in the Town of Lunenburg but there certainly would be impacts all around us," Bailey told LighthouseNOW.

Council hasn't formed an official opinion on the matter but wanted to hear from Cermaq as soon as possible. Bailey was content with the initial details.

"It was a good first effort," she said. "It was important to get introduced to the folks behind the name and to have an access point to get information ...."

Cermaq needs enough sites to support 20,000 metric tonnes of production and requires two hatcheries, and a processing plant. The company estimates that it would create more than 300 jobs, and contribute half-a-billion dollars to the local economy. The option to lease allows Cermaq to collect biophysical data, determine suitability for their operations, and understand the socio-economic context of the province.

Savoie said right now is about building trust and relationships. If there's production, it's years away and the "best case scenario" for the company is the year 2025.

Cermaq Canada has 25 salmon farm licences on both the east and west coast of Vancouver Island and, also in BC, operates four hatcheries and a processing plant. They employ 250 and 300 workers depending on harvest activity.

Savoie said Nova Scotia is seen as a new business opportunity for Cermaq that would support and grow the province's seafood industry and contribute to regional communities.

However, the company is cognizant of environmental concerns expressed about fish farming, the potential impacts to water access, and noise pollution. Savoie said the company isn't shying away from concerns and wants to work to address them.

Savoie said it's important for any company workers to feel welcome in the communities where Cermaq operates. "If we don't feel employees can go to a local grocery store and feel comfortable about saying saying who they work for .... that's a really important distinction for us."

She said the presentation to councillors in Lunenburg is one of many opportunities Cermaq will take to speak with politicians and others and share information.

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