Cooke Aquaculture’s 20-cage salmon farm at Rattling Beach in Nova Scotia is at centre of hearings.
On Tuesday, the Nova Scotia government was shielded from questions about why it allowed a salmon farm owned by seafood giant Cooke Aquaculture to operate outside its lease boundary for years, when the province’s newly created Aquaculture Review Board refused to rule on the legality of Cooke’s existing farm site at Rattling Beach.
According to a report from the Canadian Broadcast Corporation news service, the decision to shut down the line of inquiry came in a hearing into an application to expand the boundaries of Cooke’s open net pen salmon farm near Digby.
This is the first application to go before the quasi-judicial board, which was created to enhance public confidence in decisions surrounding aquaculture.
Operating outside the boundaries
“We are not a board of inquiry into the appropriateness or inappropriateness of aquaculture in the province,” said board chair Jean McKenna said on the second day of hearings in Yarmouth.
“Nothing is to be gained by calling evidence that is an attempt to criticize the enforcement branch of the Department of Environment or Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.”
Cooke’s 20-cage salmon farm at Rattling Beach has been operating outside the original — and much smaller — lease boundary for many years.
The company does not want to add more cages or fish at the site. Right now the pens hold about 660,000 Atlantic salmon. Cooke subsidiary Kelly Cove Salmon is seeking a boundary amendment that would legitimize what has been going on at the site for decades.
Out of compliance
The provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture knew Cooke was out of compliance as far back as 2011, according to the company.
Several aquaculture sites belonging to Cooke and other companies were also found to be non-compliant after the advent of more sophisticated global positioning technology, a Cooke official said Monday.
The province allowed Cooke to continue operations while it overhauled aquaculture rules. The company first applied for a boundary amendment to Rattling Beach in 2016.
In a statement issued on Monday, Kelly Cove Salmon said, “The application before the Board is to simply bring all moorings and equipment within the lease boundary on a farm that has been operating at this location since 1994 under the approval of the provincial regulator, Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture. This application represents no change whatsoever in equipment, location, or production increases.”