Cermaq cites temperature profiles in decision to drop N.S. plans

By Lois Ann Dort    
April 15 2020

GUYSBOROUGH – On Thursday, April 9, Cermaq, an international aquaculture company, announced that it would not move forward with plans to produce 20,000 tonnes of salmon in open pen fish farms across Nova Scotia.

In a press release, David Kiemele, managing director for Cermaq Canada, stated, “…we were unable to locate enough sites at this time, and have made the decision to allow all of our Options to Lease to expire.”

Cermaq’s Sustainable Development Director Linda Sams has been a key member of the company’s Nova Scotia exploration team, attending public information sessions and holding stakeholder meetings across the province. She spoke to The Journal about Cermaq’s decision to leave the province in a phone interview on Thursday.

While there was growing opposition against the proposed project by local stakeholders across the province, Sams told The Journal, that those voices, while heard, weren’t the key factor in the decision to relinquish the options to lease. “For us, it was just the temperature profiles. We knew it would be close and that there could be potential there. Unfortunately, because of climate change, it’s likely, maybe, in the next five to 10 years there might be changes and it might be more hospitable, but right now we just couldn’t find the number of sites for the amount of investment we wanted to do in the province.”

When asked what Cermaq has learned from this experience in Nova Scotia, Sams said, “One of things that I think is very important that I stress is that marine farming is still very viable in Nova Scotia. I think there is a bright future for aquaculture and marine farming and fish farming. It just was not at the scale we needed to justify that sort of investment…The one thing that I learned in these small communities, I think there is a desperate need for diversification in economies…In the COVID-19 crisis, we are seeing that those primary industries have an amazingly important role in these small community economies.

“As with all these things…you learn something every time. What really hit home for me, is that it is really important to do your homework. To take your time and really understand the landscape before you take the step towards investment…I still believe that it’s been absolutely transparent and very visible on our plans right from the beginning which is the right thing to do. It may have stirred up some misinformation and anxiety but I do believe it is right to lay out our intentions early and spend time working through that,” said Sams, adding that the company would have continued to spend time working on that aspect of the business if the biophysical results had warranted moving forward.

Sams concluded by saying that the company had met a lot of great people in Nova Scotia, “and I wish everybody there the very best...This is a difficult time right now and I wish the very best for everybody.”

Guysborough County Inshore Fishermen’s Association manager Ginny Boudreau said the announcement by Cermaq last Thursday was the best news she’d heard in a while. In an interview last week, she added, “We’re very pleased to see that our efforts to express our concerns to the proponent regarding our fishery were heard. And it’s some valuable information for them to make their decision with. We appreciate the support of our municipality and our community.”

Boudreau also stated that the GCIFA would be happy to work with Cermaq at any time in the future with regard to operating a land-based salmon aquaculture venture, “all they need to do is contact us.”

MODG Warden Vernon Pitts spoke to The Journal after Cermaq’s announcement and said that it was always a top priority for the municipality that local fishers be on board with the proposed farms. “Fishermen are our residents, they're using our resources; first and foremost, they had to get them on side. Needless to say, the fishermen did not come on side. They were adamantly opposed to it.” As representatives of local fishers, council unanimously decided they could not endorse Cermaq’s project and sent a letter to the province stating that position.

“We, as council, listened to our fishermen,” said Pitts. “And the decision was made. If you don’t get buy-in from the people, it’s not a good start.”