Regulators have chosen who will be allowed to intervene in hearings on a massive salmon farm expansion proposed on Nova Scotia's South Shore and they do not include the Lunenburg-based authors of Salmon Wars, a book sharply critical of the salmon farming industry.
This week the Aquaculture Review Board (ARB) granted intervenor status to five groups opposed to Cooke Aquaculture's application to triple the size of an existing salmon farm at Liverpool Bay.
It is the first new salmon farm proposed in Nova Scotia in many years and the first one to come before the quasi-judicial board created in 2015 to enhance public confidence in decisions around aquaculture.
The board has approved a previous Cooke boundary change at Rattling Beach near Digby that legitimized the size of the site, but did not add additional fish.
Cooke wants 1.8 million fish in Liverpool Bay
The stakes are considerably higher in the Liverpool Bay application launched by Cooke Aquaculture, a New Brunswick-based industry giant with wild-capture fisheries and aquaculture operations around the world.
Cooke subsidiary Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd. has applied to expand its existing fish farm at Coffin Island, and open two new ones at Brooklyn and Mersey Point in Queens County.
Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd. wants to increase the size of its existing fish farm at Coffin Island in Liverpool Bay, and add two more sites nearby at Mersey Point and Brooklyn. The current site and proposed sites are highlighted in yellow. (CBC News)
If approved, each site would contain 660,000 fish — a 370 per cent increase in the number of farmed salmon in Liverpool Bay.
The board rejected all the individuals who asked to intervene in regulatory hearings set for February and March 2024 on the grounds they are not "substantially and directly affected" by the proposal.
Why Salmon Wars authors were rejected
That includes Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins, authors of Salmon Wars: The Dark Underbelly of Our Favorite Fish.
They acknowledged in their request they do not live in the area but "... as investigators, we can attest to the historic and worldwide business practices of this company, Cooke Aquaculture."
In an Oct. 23 decision on intervenors, the board ruled: " While their views of Cooke Aquaculture are interesting, there is nothing in their status application to indicate that they would in any way be "substantially and directly" affected by this hearing. They are certainly open, however, to make a written or oral statement at the hearing."
Frantz responded Wednesday, telling CBC News, "I wish we could say that we were surprised, but given the behaviour of the ARB in the Rattling Beach hearing and other hearings, there's no surprise or shock in the fact that they don't want to hear from people who have expert knowledge of this or who may live nearby."
Two organizations did not make the cut: the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and Halifax-based environmental group Ecology Action Centre.
Cooke says it will meet all requirements
Cooke says Liverpool Bay is suitable for what it calls a modest production increase and will demonstrate how its expansion meets all regulatory requirements when hearings begin.
"Ocean salmon farming is the most environmentally efficient animal production on the planet: lowest fresh water use, lowest carbon emissions, smallest environmental footprint," spokesperson Joel Richardson said in a statement to CBC News.
"Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd. welcomes the opportunity to appear before the Aquaculture Review Board."
Meet the intervenors who will challenge Cooke
On the other side are intervenors who will get to challenge Cooke.
"This is our chance, but it seems you know, to have taken a long time to become involved. You would think that an application of this magnitude would have included consultation with local municipal [and regional] groups that might be affected by it," said Loris Azzano, president of the Queens Recreational Boating Association which operates the Brooklyn Marina.
"Putting in two massive fish farms on either side of the entrance to our bay would be in direct opposition to the recreational uses of the bay," he says.
Cooke Aquaculture's existing fish farm is seen in Liverpool Bay. (CBC)
Other intervenors include 22 commercial fishermen who say the expansion will interfere with their livelihood — a claim Cooke has repeatedly denied.
KMKNO, the Kwilmu'kw Maw-Klusuaqn Negotiation Office for the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Chiefs, objects to the reduction of available fishing areas, impacts to Mi'kmaw archeological heritage and access to waterways.
They also argue that the "active consultation" with the province has not adequately addressed their concerns
The Protect Liverpool Bay Association, whose stated mission is to prevent the expansion of open net fish farms, is also approved as an intervenor.
"We are overall pleased with the list of intervenors. However, there are a few organizations that were denied, who represent businesses and citizens, who will now not have a seat at the table," said Brian Muldoon, who speaks for the association.
The board also approved the Region of Queens Municipality because "it has jurisdiction over land-based activities which relate to marine activities." The municipality has also argued the fish farm would negatively impact its branding as "Queens Coast — seek Nature's Reward."
Municipal council will be presented with the costs of intervening in this case next month.
"They have the option; either say yes, we are going to proceed or no. I am very hopeful that this council will allow the process to continue," Mayor Darlene Norman told CBC News Wednesday.
The board warned intervenors it "may exclude anything it considers to be hearsay, irrelevant, immaterial or unduly repetitious from the evidence presented at an adjudicative hearing."
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