In response to the concerns of residents over the proposed aquaculture expansion plan for Liverpool Bay, the Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) has compiled a letter containing 24 questions. The letter is being sent to Kelly Cove Salmon Limited, a subsidiary of Cooke Aquaculture, which is the proponent of the expansion.
"The council has heard from a large number of residents who are very concerned about aquaculture," said Region of Queens mayor, David Dagley told LighthouseNOW. "As a regional council we look at what we can do to support our residents. We wanted to ensure that all of the concerns that have been broached to us by citizens, were included in the letter and we think we accomplished that."
But while council endorsed the letter, a group against the fish farm expansion and who were given the opportunity to review the letter and make it a joint submission rejected the missive.
Anne Lawes, a representative of the ad hoc group Protect Liverpool Bay, read council a letter of their own at an earlier meeting, telling them that they weren't in agreement with the document council had drafted.
"While we appreciate that the RQM gave PLB the opportunity to review the letter drafted to Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd. and to make it a joint submission, our position is that we cannot sign this letter because our mandate is no expansion, no new marine fin fish farms in Nova Scotia," Lawes said.
"While we applaud the RQM is taking a position, i.e. requesting information from Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd, we are disturbed and saddened by the fact the RQM is not supporting our position that fin-fish aquaculture has no place in the marine environment."
The questions come from data compiled by staff and input submitted by residents over the past several months.
RQM council approved the letter at their regular meeting on February 12. The letter requests that the questions be answered and sent along with the company's aquaculture application should they choose to apply for an expansion in the Bay.
Cooke Aquaculture applied for and received a six-month scoping period from September 7, 2018 to March 7, 2019. Cooke can submit during, or following, the scoping period an application with a development plan and scoping report aimed at expanding their current 14 pen fish farm.
Dagley said that the answers to the questions will not come back specifically to the RQM, but will be available to the public to view if Cooke submits an application.
"It would be incumbent of Kelly Cove Salmon, as part of their scoping process, to do research and provide that with an application, should they decide to apply," said Dagley. "We would expect that all of the information and requests made to Kelly Cove Salmon during their option period would be researched and provided with their application to the provincial aquaculture board.
"The questions compiled in the letter will help begin the process of understanding the scientific data behind the expansion application," he added.
Among the questions council has posed to Cooke is: "Identify the history and future probability of a sea lice infestation to be anticipated at pens in Liverpool Bay, and the future methods to be utilized to mitigate any future sea lice impacts?"
Another query requested that Cooke, "please identify the projected commercial fishing value of the size of the area which is no longer accessible to commercial fishers, as well as that of any proposed expansion?"
Should Cooke Aquaculture decide to proceed with an application and if the council wishes, they could become involved as an intervenor in the case. However, Dagley noted that would be an expensive process.
"It is very unlikely," he said. "There is a significant cost involved in doing this that entails hiring consultants because we are not subject matter experts. Additionally, there is a large amount of work to review all documentation that the review board would receive."
Council documents indicate that the legal and technical costs would be between $50,000 and $100,000.
"I don't know if most of the population would be happy in spending that much money. I know there is a concentrated effort against aquaculture. But I also know of people that support it and know of people in Queens that are employed by Cooke Aquaculture, and the Region of Queens is not in the business of removing these people's jobs," said Dagley.
Despite many calls by attendees at recent council meetings to send a letter as a definitive message to Cooke saying that the region does not support the fish farm expansion, Dagley says that there are no plans for a vote.
"We have no concrete position," he said, of council, and doesn't foresee having a vote on the subject.