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BREAKING NEWS: N.S. puts a moratorium on scoping applications for new open pen finfish farms

The door is closed to new finfish farm entrants in Nova Scotia. This morning Nova Scotia's Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Steve Craig announced he will not be issuing scoping applications for new finfish farm sites until the province have mapped, assessed and rated the coast for suitable aquaculture locations. A process he estimates will take 3 years.

The announcement comes fresh off the heels of an Aquaculture Regulatory Review report, published on Friday, March 17th. However, a classification system was a key recommendation in the Doelle-Lahey regulatory report back in 2014, referring to a traffic light system that rates the coast for suitability of finfish farms. Additionally the Nova Scotia PC party pledged to introduce coastal mapping for aquaculture in their 2021 campaign. And here we are.

"We have 13,000 kilometres of coastline in Nova Scotia," he said. "I'd be surprised if there are a thousand suitable for marine finfish environments, 500, 100. I don't know what that number is, but I think we can get a better sense of that." - DFA Min. Steve Craig

In a CBC article published this morning, the Minister says existing fish farm applications already in the queue will proceed through the adjudication process. These years old applications date back to former Minister Keith Colwell's days.

"They have the right to go right through the system to the agriculture review board for a decision — haven't touched that," Craig said.
"Where I do have full discretion is allowing people to enter into that and providing an option to lease, and I have not allowed any of those options to be had."

Also mentioned in the article is that the Aquaculture Review Board will hear its third application to date, sometime later this year. We have no further information on whether that application is for a shellfish or finfish farm, or its location.

Link to the full article by CBC here. or click on our Facebook post below for the link and comments.

Today's announcement came as a surprise to all of us, and effectively explains the prolonged and noticeable stall within the fish farm application process. High marks go to Minister Craig who has not granted any scoping applications since he became Minister - a quiet moratorium of his own discretion. The Minister makes it clear - he's exercising his full discretionary powers where he can. We take note that the holders of the 'years old' applications in queue, have rights as Minister Craig pointed out - which most likely means an attempt to stop them from completing the process would probably result in N.S. being sued. The industry's history of suing governments would certainly suggest this.

So adjudicative applications in the system will proceed but let's not forget, the Minister does have discretionary powers over ARB decisions too. In light of pending classification system that's a point not to be overlooked.


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