Chester-St.Margaret's MLA, Danielle Barkhouse, PC Party, who voiced opposition to net-pen fish farms during her campaign last year, announced she has established a local Liaison Committee with Cooke Aquaculture. To be clear, this is the same Committee which Cooke attempted to establish during the open house in Blandford last summer (as well as one in Liverpool, to no avail). IT IS AN INDUSTRY PLATFORM that benefits the operator, its not a Government or community platform. The community platform is Twin Bays Coalition.
Such a Committee only serves to enable Cooke to check boxes for industry sustainability certifications (mandatory with many) and regulators. A Liaison Committee is the equivalent of showing how *we are working together*, thus there are no opponents. They will listen and document your concerns but this won't change how they operate if its within the regulations.
During the campaign in July of 2021, outside a Cooke open house in Blandford, Barkhouse spoke at a #NoFishFarm rally hosted by Twin Bays and Healthy Bays Network:
“It [this industry] has high impact on our banks and harbours and low value added to our economy. Open-pen farming is not compatible with the existing uses of our bays”. - Danielle Barkhouse. July 25, 2021
A local Liaison Committee doesn't exist without the existence of a fish farm or a planned one in your community. Participation equates to acceptance of their fish farms (like it or not) and a willingness to *work with them* while they operate in your community. Cooke's is not obligated to do anything other than sit at the table and listen to concerns - this equates to community collaboration/engagement. In turn these committees are leveraged as high level accomplishments by Cooke in front of the ARB and for sustainability certification assessments.
As stated in our Facebook comments last week in regards to the Committee, Barkhouse says,
"The reality is this company is not going anywhere‘s. It has been there for 30+ years. Legislation and regulations need to change! Until those are changed we are stuck with them."
We have learned once you let fish farms in there is no way you're going to get them out without an even bigger fight. Even if new legislation were to ban them, you cannot get them out without ruthless and relentless industry pushback and years of costly lawsuits - as we're witnessing in BC. So this notion of *Let them in, then we'll work on getting them out after..* is an approach that raises concern.
We are aware MLA Barkhouse has stood with MLA for Queens Kim Masland against open net-pen fish farms and we are very grateful for that. We do however, share the same opinion as Twin Bays Coalition in that Liaison Committees should be left to Industry, not elected officials.
Below is Twin Bays response to MLA Barkhouse:
OUR COMMENT ON THE COMMUNITY LIAISON COMMITTEE BEING ESTABLISHED BY OUR MLA
MLA Barkhouse has always been supportive of our Twin Bays Coalition (TBC) and we appreciate that.
Community Liaison Committees are not new. To our knowledge, they have always been established by industry, never Government.
Historically, we have been told that they lacked structure and purpose. They did not result in early notification of breaches, outbreaks or quick retrieval of broken gear. In general, they accomplished very little aside from being regularly quoted by industry as examples of their engagement and cooperation with communities. During the open house in Blandford last summer, Cooke staff were relentless in attempting to recruit participants for such a committee. They appear to have failed in that attempt.
In our opinion, Community Liaison Committees should be left to industry. Elected officials have legal responsibilities to protect our Bays and that is where we would prefer they focus. We have set up a meeting with MLA Barkhouse to discuss this matter.