In a 5-3 vote on April 23, councillors in the Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) rejected Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd.'s plan to expand in Liverpool Bay.
While the vote indicates council's position on the matter, it doesn't stop the review of Kelly Cove application from moving ahead.
The motion asked councillors to consider whether or not the proposed expansion of Kelly Cove aquaculture operation in Liverpool Bay was acceptable.
Councillors Raymond Fiske and Kevin Muise, along with Mayor David Dagley voted against the motion. Councillors Susan MacLeod, Heather Kelly, Brian Fralic, Jack Fancy and Gilbert Johnson voted in favour.
Currently, Kelly Cove, a division of Cooke Aquaculture, has a 14-pen site near Coffin Island in Liverpool Bay. Expansion plans would see that site expanded to 20 pens with an additional two new sites of the same size.
RQM Mayor David Dagley said that majority vote now makes it a policy with the Region of Queens and that he supports the decision that has been made. The next step is to write a letter stating their position, but he pointed out the letter couldn't be immediately written.
"I have no one to write a letter to," said Dagley. "The application is now with the province who will consult with various groups. This will not be passed to the aquaculture review board until they are done, likely in late fall. The review panel will then receive public submissions and comments and at this time this would be an avenue for the Region of Queens to send this motion to them.
"Then at the end of the day, the review board will make a decision that the application is either approved, rejected or amended."
If the application is approved it will go to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, who has 30 days to implement it.
"After that there is another 14-day period that if someone feels they are negatively impacted, they can appeal the decision with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia." Dagley said.
Brian Muldoon, founder of Protect Liverpool Bay, whose group has been pushing for support from council for months, called the vote exciting news.
"We are really pleased with the decision. We applaud council for listening with open minds to what is actually happening below those nets," he said. "We are thankful that they made a decision based on facts. Now we have to take the next steps forward in our fight."
Muldoon says the group will request the Region of Queens council to become an intervenor for Liverpool Bay and noted they are continuing to gather facts and prepare for intervenor status themselves.
Joel Richardson, vice-president of public relations for Cooke Aquaculture Inc., told LighthouseNOW in an email: "We look forward to the technical review of our application by the department and other federal and provincial agencies, analysis from the network partners, and participating in the Review Board's Adjudicated Public Hearing."
Pending the application's review, Kelly Cove is continuing to share information, answer questions and provide "an ongoing link between the community the company," Richardson said.
"We are also proceeding on our partnership with the Medway River Salmon Association to explore a wild Atlantic salmon recovery project. As an Atlantic Canadian family-owned company with over 200 Nova Scotia employees, we are committed to participating in the life of the local communities where we operate and support them wherever possible."
Before the March 26 council meeting, councillors did not speak for or against the expansion. However, at that meeting, several spoke out and wanted to put the issue to a vote.
However, there was a letter on file from a previous council in 2014 that stated they were against expansion in Port Mouton, but supported expansion in Liverpool Bay.
This letter had to be rescinded and a new motion put forward, which was completed at the April 23rd meeting.