FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, April 12, 2021
KJIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) – Ecology Action Centre's application to be an intervenor in the province's first Aquaculture Review Board (ARB) hearing on salmon farming has been rejected by an appointed tribunal. In doing so, the ARB has set an alarming precedent for civil society participation in shaping the future of aquaculture in public waters. The decision effectively bars Nova Scotia's largest environmental organization from fully participating in the new regulatory process.
In May, the ARB will hold its first hearing to rule on a lease expansion proposal from Kelly Cove Salmon, a subsidiary of multinational giant Cooke Aquaculture, at Rattling Beach in the Annapolis Basin – a site that has been operating outside of legal boundaries since at least 2014. The hearing comes on the heels of a provincial budget reconfirming support for a massive expansion of industrial salmon farming on Nova Scotia's coasts, despite the federal government’s commitment to phasing out open net-pen farms altogether over environmental concerns in British Columbia.
“This hearing is supposed to give the public a chance to hold operators and regulators accountable,” says Simon Ryder-Burbidge, Marine Conservation Campaigner with EAC. “The EAC represents thousands of people across the province, but with the rejection of our intervenor status we’ve been severely limited in our ability to participate in this process. This is not a step in the right direction.”
The ARB was established by the province following the 2014 recommendations by the Doelle-Lahey Panel aquaculture regulatory review that emphasized the need for enhanced and public input in aquaculture decision-making processes. The EAC was heavily involved in the establishment of Doelle-Lahey, providing input to the Panel and subsequently participating as a member of Nova Scotia’s Aquaculture Regulatory Advisory Committee.
“East Coast Environmental Law and EAC have spent years working with communities and government in an effort to make aquaculture decisions more transparent and accountable in Nova Scotia,” says staff lawyer Mike Kofahl, who has represented EAC throughout this process. “The ARB approach to determine who has an interest in this aquaculture site is very narrow. It neglects the spirit and intent of the Dolle-Lahey recommendations.”
“The Board’s decision implies that only those who live in the immediate vicinity of these sites have the right to fully participate,” says Ryder-Burbidge. “It’s deeply concerning if there is no place for a province-wide environmental organization like ours to provide input on aquaculture decisions in Nova Scotia. These are public waters in which a legal violation has been occurring for more than six years. The ramifications of this decision and the impacts of open net-pen expansion will be felt far beyond Rattling Beach.”
- Kelly Cove Salmon, a Cooke Aquaculture subsidiary, has applied for permission to increase the size of their leasing area at Rattling Beach from 8.75 hectares to just over 29 hectares.
- As per Ecojustice’s January Letter, Rattling Beach is one of five open net-pen sites operating unlawfully in Nova Scotia, outside of legal boundaries.
- Cooke Aquaculture has announced plans to more than triple the current amount of open net-pen salmon production in Nova Scotia.
- The Review Board is appointed by the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and with a mandate to decide on aquaculture applications in marine areas for new sites, expansions to existing sites, and the addition of finfish species to sites not currently approved to produce finfish.
- Under the ARB’s hearing rules, only intervenors are allowed to cross-examine witnesses, challenge the proponent’s assertions and ask questions of government administrators; other public participants are allowed a maximum of six minutes to present to the ARB.
- Two community-based stewardship groups with nearby representation, including the St. Mary’s Bay Protectors and the Healthy Bays Network, were similarly rejected from intervention.
- The EAC’s 2015 response to the implementation of Nova Scotia’s new aquaculture regulations in contrast with Doelle-Lahey recommendations can be viewed in full at the EAC website.
For more information, please contact:
Marine Conservation Campaigner
Ecology Action Centre
East Coast Environmental Law