May 22, 2020
Dear Premier McNeil
Thank you for all the work you and your staff have done to keep Nova Scotians safe during this time of pandemic. We are deeply appreciative.
Protect Liverpool Bay Association (PLBA) is a group of citizens and business owners concerned about the economic prosperity, social well-being and environmental sustainability of our coastal communities.
On March 31, 2020 the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture (NSDFA) renewed Cooke Aquaculture’s lease for Site #1205 – Coffin Island, Liverpool Bay for an astounding 20 years, with a 10-year license.
In January 2020, three months before the lease/license was renewed, Cooke Aquaculture began work at Site #1205, repairing broken pen frames and getting them ready to fill with fish. The work was non-stop, even while the deadly pandemic had everyone else on lockdown, they persevered, without “social distancing”, without the use of personal protective equipment.
There were no fish in the farm that required care. So, why would a company work so diligently during a pandemic with a lease/license renewal still months away? Did Cooke Aquaculture know something, long before the lease renewal decision was made, that we didn’t know? Was the decision to renew the company’s lease made before our community had a chance to provide input, as is our legislative right?
While our province is in the depths of a deadly pandemic with orders to “Stay the BLAZES home”, our Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Hon. Keith Colwell’s department deems it business as usual for this company and grants them this unprecedented 20-year lease renewal. The previous lease period was for 5 years.
The citizens of this province over the last decade have been speaking out with a strong voice and based upon substantial evidence that this antiquated open-net pen fish farming business model is not for our shallow Nova Scotian bays.
Public consultation on this last round of aquaculture lease renewals was announced only as a brief notice, so deeply embedded into NSDFA’s website, – very difficult to find – that it was with just days to respond that it finally came to our attention. The deadline for letters of concern was February 7, 2020, midnight. PLBA only found out the process was underway on February 2, at 10pm, at which point we alerted citizens to send their concerns regarding the lease renewal to NSDFA. No mention of the 30-day public consultation period was made on the NSDFA’s news bulletin, nor was anything posted to the department’s Twitter feed.
The decision to renew the lease for Site #1205 was released on March 31, 2020. NSDFA’s decision document states that there were only 14 submissions from the public. We have since learned that NSDFA “rejected” more than twice the number of submissions from concerned citizens. This is the future of our community at stake, and as residents of Liverpool area, we have a right to participate in the process.
Furthermore, a letter from the Moose Harbour Authority President, representing the local lobster fishers, was “rejected” because of a missing phone number. This is in spite of several other accompanying identifiers, including a full name, an email address and a mailing address. Yet, another letter, from an out of country seasonal citizen, received a response from NSDFA stating they were missing the “application number” and requested the citizen email it back to the department. Why wouldn’t the NSDFA ask the Harbour Authority, who is representing the largest impacted group, the lobster fishers, for a “phone number” instead of rejecting their concerns? Is this the “GOLD STANDARD” that NSDFA works under? This is totally unacceptable. We want answers.
And now we come to another very troubling point; Cooke Aquaculture has been illegally operating Site # 1205 using a marine area approximately four times the size its lease since 2016.
Reliable sources tell us that Cooke Aquaculture also recently delivered salmon smolts to Liverpool Bay without the required “aquatic animal health transfer permit”. Who is regulating who here? Again, falling short of the ‘GOLD STANDARD” regulations.
Hon. Mr. Premier, you said, “Please, trust the process”. However, as we await a future hearing in front of the NS Aquaculture Review Board regarding the potential expansion of Cook Aquaculture sites in Liverpool Bay, members of the Protect Liverpool Bay Association have many reasons to distrust this process developed by NSDFA.
We say, Hon. Mr. Premier, that the buck stops with you. We urge you to ask Minister Colwell to withdraw this March 31, 2020 decision, remove this illegal site and follow the lead of Prime Minister Trudeau and Fisheries and Oceans Canada in transitioning away from open pen fin-fish farms in our pristine Nova Scotian waters by 2025.
Communities around the province plead that you listen and stand behind our voices. I can assure you, as this issue has absorbed much of our time the past several years, that we will strongly consider your government’s response in this regard during next year’s election.
Brian Muldoon Founder, Chair Protect Liverpool Bay
Cc Honourable Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, NSDF Minister Keith Colwell, DFO Minister Bernadette Jordan, MLA, Kim Masland, RQM Mayor, David Dagley