MLA Vicki Conrad speaks to the issue in the Nova Scotia Legislature

November 22, 2006

Source: Hansard: Page 2407

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens on an introduction.(Interruptions)

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Order, please. Order, please. There's too much noise in the Chamber and I would ask members to bring the level of noise down for the honourable member for Queens who has the floor.

MS. VICKI CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome today guests from my home riding of Queens County and, in particular, Friends of Port Mouton Bay who are working very hard at supporting the protection of Port Mouton Bay. With us today are Clyde Fisher, Judy Cohoon, Trinda Lee MacLean, Robin Fisher, Inid Roehner, Richard Roehner, Philip Hupman, Rose Hupman, Ryan Fisher, Leanara Fisher, Rosalyn Daury, Ruth Smith and Brigitte Petersman. Thank you for coming today and if the House would give a warm welcome to the guests in the west gallery. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: And, again, we welcome all visitors to the Chamber today.

November 22, 2006

Source: Hansard: Page 2439 to 2467



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 1024.

Res. No. 1024 - Friends of Port Mouton Bay/Commun.: Efforts - Support - notice given Nov. 21/06 - (Ms. V. Conrad)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.


MS. VICKI CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of- what should be- the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture. Last week when I raised my concerns about the Aqua Fish Farm proposal, this minister said he has been hearing positive responses from people in the area. I would like to know just who he was talking to. The concerned local residents in the gallery today, the Municipality of the Region of Queens, and the nearly 2,000 signers of the petition are not among the supposed supporters the minister references. My question today to the minister is, can he explain to the Friends of Port Mouton who are in the gallery today how this proposal for this expansion will be good for this community?

HON. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member across referenced what I said last week on getting positive feedback, as well. That is true, I have a number of people who are against and I have a number of people who are for the project. The project is in the assessment phase. The assessment is ongoing, and we'll be making a decision in due course.

MS. CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Environment. I know that an environmental assessment of the proposed project will take place, and I hope that the minister will examine it very carefully before coming to a decision. However, I have information provided to me, which I will table today, that shows the record of Aqua Fish Farms operation in New Brunswick, and it raises some very serious concerns. I ask the minister, will he ensure that this company's record in New Brunswick will be taken into account before a decision is made here?

MR. PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I've determined through my staff that the responsibility for determining whether the fish farm proposal is given the thumbs up, and the monitoring, falls under the Minister of Fisheries. So I'll pass the question to him.

HON. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it's quite right, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the federal government, the industry, do the monitoring for

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all sites in the Province of Nova Scotia. The information that was asked for a few weeks ago will be made available probably within the next two weeks for the assessments and the monitoring that has been done for 2004-05. Probably early in February, our monitoring assessment will be done for 2006 and that will be made available as well.

MS. CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, I'm hoping that you will review the assessment records that I have received from New Brunswick. The Friends of Port Mouton Bay have serious and unanswered questions that this government needs to address. My question is, will the Minister of Environment and Labour and the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture sit down following Question Period and discuss this issue with these people here today?

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I can't speak for the Minister of Environment and Labour, but I can tell the honourable member that I certainly will meet with the group from Port Mouton after debate. (Applause)

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 1024.

Res. No. 1024 - Friends of Port Mouton Bay/Commun.: Efforts - Support - notice given Nov. 21/06 - (Ms. V. Conrad)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MS. VICKI CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to Resolution No. 1024:

"Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly support the efforts of the community and the members of The Friends of Port Mouton Bay in their working to preserve Port Mouton Bay from the proposed expansion of Aqua Fish Farm's current development."

I have spoken to this issue many times in the form of several questions over the last couple of weeks. I've tabled a petition with well over 1,800 signatures and I am looking for the support of this government, this House, to help this community protect Port Mouton Bay. (Applause)

I can't express that any more firmly. This proposed expansion does not belong in Port Mouton Bay for many, many reasons. We have 40 lobster boats with crews of at least three crew members on each boat in this area. We have about 27 mossing boats in this area. This is one of the most pristine areas in North America, according to the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia. That's a grave concern for my communities - for the County of Queens. We all know that the Municipality of Queens has taken a resolution with their council members, and they are all overwhelmingly in support of the Friends of Port Mouton Bay. We have a lot to lose here.

I want to ask the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture to really seriously look at the possible and probable negative economic impacts that will be found if this

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expansion is to move forward. The minister has in his power, in his discretion, to look at the economic impacts that could possibly happen to this very pristine area in my community. I would ask him to refer to the Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act, Chapter 25, Section 21(2), which gives him the power to have a full, economic impact study done before making a final decision on this.

The information I tabled today - I want the minister to take very seriously the environmental assessment process that was done in New Brunswick, especially the most recent one in 2005, going into 2006, that shows clearly that Aqua Fish Farms in New Brunswick has not been and has not demonstrated good stewardship in that province. So therefore, it's very important that this minister not only look at the environmental impacts of this company and look at what's happening in Port Mouton Bay.

Some of the economic impacts that we'll see happen. Certainly the depletion of our fisheries stocks, our lobster stocks. What I'm hearing from fishermen on the ground, what they're telling me is that the immediate area around the existing expansion - they are seeing a dead zone. They are no longer lobster fishing in that particular area of the bay. They are having to go out further into the waters to get the same numbers of lobsters that they did several years ago when the first farm was established.

This is a very unique harbour in the fact that it has been mapped, showing a navigational channel - a port that has been mapped for generations. Not only is it a navigational harbour, but it also supports and harbours and acts as a safe haven for our lobster fishermen in times of need. When there is a storm in the area, those 40 fishing boats are taking turns moving their gear in and out of that harbour, in and around where this expansion is to be located.

The area where the existing farm is today, the waters around that area, I'm told and I have seen, I went out two and a half years ago to this particular site - it's a dead zone. There are no lobsters there, I'm told from the local lobster fishermen. There are no scallops in that area and the area is not the same as it used to be. From the existing farm down towards Summerville Beach, one of the beaches in Queens County that makes up our beautiful coastline of beaches.

I'm asking the minister to seriously look at that type of economic impact that it will have on our local fisheries in Queens County. I'm told that the mossmen are not able to get the same levels of moss, harvesting their moss, because there's just simply none. It's vanishing in and around that area where the current site exists. So to have an expansion of 29 hectares, which is similar to or is 70 acres, is just incredible. The current farm consists of eight pens. This expansion will see at least 40 pens out in that bay. That's a lot of pens and a lot of fecal matter. I can tell you that the presentation I attended, there is no guarantee that fecal matter will ever be remediated, not even through the fallowing process.

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To the honourable member and to the minister, as I indicated in a drawing yesterday to you, that the fallowing process - there is a sediment that actually hangs in the balance. Not all of it is settling to the bottom of the ocean floor. There is a lot of that sediment that just hangs there and with the tides and the currents, that's moving elsewhere. There are no methods in our monitoring process that gives us good faith that it's not going elsewhere. Other economics - we have a budding tourism industry and we have lots of residential growth in that area. Those are all the economic impacts that we'll have.

You need to do something, Mr. Minister. I'm asking your government to support my communities, Port Mouton Bay and the County of Queens, and the municipality in supporting and protecting this bay. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

HON. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak to Resolution No. 1024. I thank the member opposite for bringing this resolution forward. As you know, there has been considerable public debate on this topic, and I have heard from many people. Some people do not want the site; others are in support of it. I have also heard the reasons why people don't want it, and I have learned of the reasons why people do want it. This is obviously a very sensitive issue in Queens County and surrounding areas, and I appreciate that everyone has their own view.

I would like to take a minute to talk about the aquaculture industry in general. Aquaculture, I feel, is a perfect fit for Nova Scotia in many ways. It not only provides jobs and economic benefit to coastal regions, but it encourages youth to stay in coastal communities; it provides opportunities for spinoff service industries; it utilizes existing infrastructure, and it must demonstrate environmental responsibility to co-exist with the ecosystem that provides the waters to grow fish.

The Nova Scotia aquculture industry takes a diversified approach to development, cultivating not only Atlantic salmon and mussels, but also steelhead trout, oysters, Arctic char, clams, abalone, halibut, and cod. Nova Scotia is not alone in this industry; in fact the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated recently that nearly half the fish consumed as food worldwide are raised on farms rather than caught in the wild. In 1980, just 9 per cent of the fish consumed by human beings came from aquaculture - today, 43 per cent does.

While fish catches have not increased in the past several years and there are fears that wild stocks may decline further, I feel aquaculture is the answer to provide fish to feed the world and meet the increasing demands that we have. As well, Nova Scotia aquaculturists have invested heavily on industry diversification - for example, in less than a decade Nova Scotia has become a world leader in halibut hatchery and nursery

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husbandry and is poised to become a key supplier of juvenile halibut, as well market fish to domestic and international buyers.

Other alternate species cultured mainly for niche markets include Arctic char, abalone, a sablefish operation currently under development. Marine salmon aquaculture currently accounts for approximately 67 per cent of the total value of fish farming in Nova Scotia. Although the province's coastline is extensive, only certain areas are acceptable to year-round farming of these species due to a phenomenon of extremely cold water called Superchill. To overcome this hurdle, development opportunities lie in farmers utilizing existing suitable sites and bays to their full potential, as well as the constant exploration of prospective new sites, and technical solutions.

Advances in aquaculture technology, including new feed formulations, containment cage construction, shellfish hatcheries and tank farm water treatment mechanisms have the potential to open new development opportunities which, until recently, have not been economically or biophysically possible.

[5:15 p.m.]

In concert with new species development, Nova Scotia aquaculture farmers are leading the way in advancement of applied technology. Nova Scotia's aquaculture total farmgate production and value in 2005 was over 9 million kilograms of product and $44 million, respectively.

Mr. Speaker, there are currently 379 issued aquaculture licences in Nova Scotia, including the cultivation of Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, brook trout, Arctic char, halibut, cod, sablefish, blue mussels, American oysters, European oysters, scallops, clams and abalone. Nova Scotia's aquaculture supports 900 direct jobs and an additional 1,400 indirect jobs, generating a total payroll of somewhere around $50 million per year.

Recent federal-provincial initiatives, including the Aquaculture Framework Agreement, hope to address some of the above challenges through clarifying roles and responsibilities, improving regulatory harmonization, advancing business risks safety nets, marketing initiatives, research and innovation, development and commercialization and infrastructure.

The Eastern Canadian aquaculture industries produce some of the safest and healthiest shellfish and finfish in the world. We have a fish veterinarian to assist aquatic farmers with monitoring their fish health. It is a well managed system of care. Fish and all animals require health care and we ensure that if vaccines or medicated feeds are required, it is only administered under the supervision of a qualified veterinarian.

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The benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids are important to our well-being and the farming of finfish has helped to make a healthy food product more affordable and readily available year round.

It is common practice for the industry to use a monitoring system such as underwater cameras while feeding fish to ensure proper distribution of feed. I understand the environmental impact of typically localized beneath the site, the impact is biodegradable and reversible when farmers use a fallowing system to reduce the impact.

I realize my time may be getting short. The industry is still a young industry and there is much we have to learn about the opportunities and the impacts, positive and negative. Right now, the communities near Port Mouton aquaculture site are wrestling with this project. I want to reassure my colleague there is a rigorous process before a decision is made. We have monitored the existing site for several years and the plan is to make the environmental data for 2004-05 available shortly. The data collected in 2006 will be available in early February.

I thank you for the opportunity and I look forward to meeting with my colleague from Queens, as well as the group from Port Mouton, right after this debate. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, I too am glad to stand and speak on Resolution 1024. I say that because I love fish. I've been around fish all my life. I fished for 35 years. I've been in tourism for quite a number of years (interruption) yes, and that will be next, whatever, yes, I won't repeat that.

I think there is a time and a place for everything on this earth. I believe there is a time and a place for tourism, there's a time and place for fishing, there's a time and place for a beautiful area to be saved. There's a time and a place to grow fish.

If we don't grow fish, our oceans will never, ever keep up with the demand. We've seen that. We'll blame each other for wiping it out and wiping it out, but if the demand wasn't in the world for that, we wouldn't have been out there catching them. We can't feed the world out of the ocean. It's as simple as that. We have to grow fish. I'll mention Port Mouton - I haven't really seen the site, but from what I'm hearing about it, it sounds like something that may have happened in the New Brunswick aquaculture industry.

The New Brunswick aquaculture industry got overcrowded. People were putting cages around the island end-to-end-to-end. After awhile, it got so crowded, the diseases started in them and they couldn't stop them. Once they would stop one disease, another disease would come in. Anything you overcrowd will die, in the wild or in captivity.

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When you get a vaccine for one disease, another disease will come along. They can't keep up with it. So in New Brunswick they had to thin it out. They had to thin that out to make that work ,and that's something that we cannot do here in Nova Scotia.

In 1994, I helped set up an aquaculture site, as a fisherman. The first thing I did was put it out of the sight of people. That was the first thing. The next thing I worked at with others, was to put it over the bottom where there was the least amount of fishing ever done, and that's where we found a site for that area. There are sites all around this province to do that. The industry can grow. The Chinese have been growing fish for 3,000 years, and we are buying fish from China to eat in this province. There's something wrong there.(Interruption) Okay, on land. It has been proposed to go on to the land. We will run into the same thing.

I'll go to Weymouth, Nova Scotia, for a minute. We have mink on the land down there; raising mink. Everybody said put the mink back in Weymouth, put them out of sight, back in the woods, everything will be all right. But it's not all right. The people are still complaining - the hog farms, the mink ranches, and now the aquaculture. One thing we can't do, we cannot overcrowd. We cannot crowd out beautiful areas. We cannot crowd out traditional fishermen, and we cannot crowd out ecotourism on the shores. We all have to have room for this. We have to grow fish.

So what has to be done is just the way I've explained it, and it can work. If we don't do something like this on our shores - Nova Scotia is a perfect place to grow fish, it's a natural place to grow fish, whether it's in places around our coast that's not harming anything, whether it's inland, whether it's offshore 100 miles, that is also being looked at, but we have to do it. We have to have fish. It's the best, healthiest fish on earth, and we have - I guess I'm running out of time, Mr. Speaker. I'm sorry, I could probably go on for a while longer yet, but, anyway, I just want to say one thing before I sit down.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has approximately a minute and a half.

MR. THERIAULT: One thing before I sit down. We can't try to push each other around in Nova Scotia in these coastal areas. We can all sit down to the table and we can all make this work with just a few suggestions. There's not a problem in this world, in this province, that you cannot work out and make everybody happy. For every problem there's a solution. There always was and always will be. Thank you, very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm really pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this resolution. I want to say, and I want the people of Port Mouton who are here to understand a couple of things about me, one, is that I'm a farmer. My first notions, actually, some years ago when I first heard people talking about

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farming fish, I thought what a great idea. I'm also a sheep farmer, and I know Port Mouton Harbour is not favourable to raising sheep, I guess it has a history of that. I want to say there is something that has gone on in recent years in my constituency in particular, because we produce 30 per cent of the milk that people drink in this province in the constituency of Hants East, and we also have one of the most rapidly-growing residential areas east of Montreal.

So this would definitely seem like an area that would be prone to conflict, Mr. Speaker. One thing that I've come to believe in doing this work, because I've gone to the public four times and asked them to re-elect me, so I think they believe that I represent them. Something that's important to me and I think important to my colleague and all my colleagues is the idea that people should have some say in what happens to their communities. For me it wouldn't matter if a fish farm was generating clean water; if the people didn't want it, that should be enough to stop it.

So I do worry about food supply. Actually this recent report that came out, Mr. Speaker, about the imminent total collapse of the oceans by 2050, I think that as politicians we should be very concerned about what it is that we do to the oceans and what we do to our environment in general. It's obvious from the member for Digby-Annapolis - he made some good points, but it's obvious that we're going to have to grow fish to feed people because we're not going to be able to get it all from the ocean. That's clear. It's clear now that we can't do it.

Not all aspects of the aquaculture industry seem to have been problematic for communities. Certainly the shellfish side, mussels and so on, this doesn't seem to have run into the same opposition that the fin fish industry has run into. I think that at first it seemed like a great idea, but communities started to recognize problems.

The industry started to recognize problems and my colleague, the member for Digby-Annapolis indicated that if you crowd too many animals, and we certainly know from all the forms of industrial agriculture and so on, what kinds of problems that creates. But the question still remains, can you grow food, can you grow fish and do it on land and still do it in an economically viable way? If the province can't answer that question, maybe they should beef up their extension department and their production technology department that came out of the Department of Agriculture and share some of that with the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, and put some people in place to actually do a couple of pilot projects and see whether or not they could actually establish an on-land facility that would be viable.

If we're going to talk about jobs, the question has to be, what are those jobs worth to the community? If 1,800 people in Port Mouton, in that area, signed petitions saying they don't want this expansion, then I think somebody should be listening to them. Mr. Speaker, I can table a photocopy out of this, if you wish, Strong Leadership.... a clear course. I don't know if you recognize this booklet but this was the Tory election

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campaign in 1999. I'll just quote from Page 19, Making Government Accountable. "We believe Nova Scotians are right to demand greater openness, accountability and participation. The John Hamm Government will be a government that listens to Nova Scotians and acts in accordance with their priorities and expectations."

Mr. Speaker, now I know that Premier Hamm is not here any longer, but I think this set the tone in 1999 when the government changed and became a Progressive Conservative Government. I think that this government should take a lesson from somebody's book - they don't seem to want to take one from the New Democrats but they won't even take one from their own. In 1999, when they formed a government, they were a majority government. In 2003 they were a minority; in 2006 they were a smaller minority and there are issues that people tried to send them a message on. One of them was the Digby quarry. The people of Digby tried to make a statement, we don't want the Digby quarry. What did that result in? They lost a Progressive Conservative minister and elected the member who sits in the House today.

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Now, Mr. Speaker, there is the issue of strip mining in Cape Breton. This is another area that, it seems, the government is quite willing to allow strip mining to occur in Cape Breton and yet the people in that area do not want it. They've indicated that time and time again and yet this government has refused to listen.

So, Mr. Speaker, I think the role of politicians, because this role is a unique role, we go to the people and we ask them to vote for us. We ask them to make a commitment on what we've pledged we will do for them. Then we come to this House of Assembly and the members of the Progressive Conservative Party and the members of the Liberal Party have formed governments in this province. Yet, when these issues arise, they don't want to listen to the people who elected them.

Mr. Speaker, that is serious and at some point, I guess that's when we throw governments out - they say governments are not elected, they're just thrown out. So I can't understand why, in the 21st Century, with all that we know and all that government should know around some of the problems that have been associated with fish farms, why they wouldn't be interested to listen to the community that doesn't want it and be willing to do some research for the benefit of Nova Scotians, for the benefit of communities and for the benefit of the industry, to see if there's another way to carry out fish farming in this province and produce what they seem to determine is a viable industry. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The time has expired for debate on Resolution No. 1024.