Canadian Salmon hopes to have first fish in water in Nova Scotia in Spring 2023, activists plan to block it

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Norwegian-owned Canadian Salmon Ltd has moved a step closer to its ambition of producing salmon in Nova Scotia, Canada after almost two years since it started exploring potential locations suitable for salmon aquaculture.

Canadian Salmon, wholly owned by Bergen-based Haugland Group, was given the option to explore sites in St Mary’s Bay in Digby County, where it has decided to operate four marine cage fish farms.

“We liked what we saw (during the scoping period) so we started the formal application for licenses with the government of Nova Scotia in February 2022,” Canadian Salmon President Martin Karlsen told SalmonBusiness.

The Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture is now reviewing the application which, if approved, will then pass it to the Aquaculture Review Board (ARB) for final approval.

“The fisheries department does not provide a recommendation one way or the other to the ARB. The ARB review board is set up to have their own criteria, which is a science-based evaluation. It will make its decision, and that decision is final. The fisheries department will then issue licenses based on the ARB decision,” said Karlsen.

Karlsen is not sure how long it would take, but the reviews will include environmental assessment and public consultation.

“Surely to God, I’m hoping (it would take just) months. That’s what I’m hoping for because that is what’s in our application papers. What we would like is to have fish in the water in the Spring of 2023, which is next spring. A lot of things have to happen in order for that to take place. So how realistic that is, it’s hard to say, because it really depends on how long the internal review (by the fisheries department) will take, and when it will present it to the ARB,” he said.

Karlsen says the operations will start incrementally in St Mary’s Bay by stocking the planned 12 cages at each of the four sites with only half capacity, or around 50,000 fish in each cage, initially.

“We have a long-term view. It’s our intention to be a fully integrated company, which means hatchery, smolt, post-smolt, growout sites, well boat service and so on and so fort. But we’ll take it one day at a time and grow slowly, but surely. And as I’ve been quoted locally before: we are definitely going to walk before we start to run.”

Activists upset
Canadian Salmon will not be the first salmon operation in St Mary’s Bay. New Brunswick-headquartered Cooke Aquaculture has been farming in the area for well over 20 years. But the planned entry of Canadian Salmon in the Bay is raising the ire of activists in the province.

A group called St Mary’s Bay Protector are gathering tonight, Monday, 13 June, to discuss the Haugland Group-Canadian Salmon development proposal.

“Altogether, these five (sic) sites would see a massive, ecosystem-changing level of production in St Mary’s Bay, more than doubling all the farmed salmon that Nova Scotia currently produces…. We are calling on Premier Houston to establish a moratorium on new salmon farms in St Mary’s Bay, and we need your help,” the group said in its call for attendance to the Monday meeting.

It has been two years since Cermaq Canada put on hold its plans to produce salmon in Nova Scotia. It said it did so because it “needed to secure more sites than were available.” But despite a freeze on its plans, the company acknowledged Nova Scotia has considerable potential for the industry.

Karlsen agreed, saying that one factor is the province’s proximity of the robust northeast US-Canada Market.

“With the quantities of fish we will be having, and because we are very close to the New England market, we will concentrate on this area. We are not intending to fly fish all over the world in order to have as little environmental impact on the world as possible. We got a huge market in our own geographic area,” he said.