Councillor Martin E. Bell
District 2 - MODL
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My position on aquaculture (fish farming) operations.
[posted February 11th 2020]

With the possible establishment of open-pen fish farms, we the local council are being told this is a tremendous opportunity for us and our residents. We could see several sites like Cherry Hill, Blandford, Northwest Cove and St. Margaret’s Bay having farm licenses issued for additional aquaculture (fish farming) operations. The first fact is aquaculture licenses are issued by the Province of Nova Scotia and not by municipal units. Some may therefore say I should not have an opinion on the matter. I want to say this is a tremendous risk for us and our residents, so I believe I do have a say as I have a great interest in my neighbourhood and those who live and share the communities in my neighbourhood region.

Over the last few weeks a great deal of discussion has taken place here in our area around the pros and cons of both open-pen ocean and land-based aquaculture (fish farming). It is a complex issue requiring consideration of many things, including environmental, economic and tourism factors, to name but a few. My family and I have sailed the coastal waters around Dublin Bay, Mahone Bay and St. Margaret’s Bay for many years and know the worth and beauty of these waters.

Nova Scotia’s south shore, particularly the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg, has a proud fishing tradition and the world looks to us for leadership, innovation, and direction as we consider what our fishery will look like in the years ahead. What we do here, now, may be used by other municipalities, provinces, and indeed, countries as a template for their own development of forward-looking, fair, sustainable and responsible fisheries plans. That having been said, all aquaculture licenses are issued by the Province of Nova Scotia under Canada’s Fishery Act and Regulations, and although the municipality may have a vested interest in any direction taken, the final authority is vested with the Province.

I appreciate how many of you have called, e-mailed, and spoken to me on this matter, and I have heard your concerns, fears, and frustrations. In response to your questions, I’d like to make my position on the matter clear. It is not a position I have taken lightly or without careful consideration of your comments, along with the impacts on our people, our environment, and our economy.

I am in favour of and support land-based aquaculture operations. I am not in favour of increasing open-net pen fish farms in the inlets, coves, and bays that make up Nova Scotia’s picturesque coastline. Open pen fish farming is, today, an old technology. We need to look to the future. I am in favour of supporting new science and technology that will be used in future, land-based aquaculture. I am in favour of leaving our inshore waters in better condition for our children and our children’s children, and it is my view that increasing open-pen ocean aquaculture is not the best way to move forward.

I understand that this position may not be the one some of you may have hoped for. I appreciate the fact that good people can have different opinions. For me, the risk of open-pen fish farming along our shores exceeds the benefit we derive from it. Unless and until science can definitively prove open-ocean aquaculture is safe, we cannot and should not expand its footprint here in our province.

While some of you have expressed interest in job opportunities in these possible aquaculture operations I repeat it is a complex issue requiring consideration of many things and at this point in time I am not in favour of increasing open-net pen fish farms in our neighbourhood.

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