July 7, 2011


Cooke Aquaculture addresses open-pen fish farming



Although open-pen fish farming has been a debatable subject in different areas of Nova Scotia over the past few years, Cooke Aquaculture emphasised that they are also keen in maintaining a healthy environment.


Recent protesting efforts against Cooke Aquaculture's fish farm change from trout to salmon has brought forward the company's concern that the community does not understand how they work.


Two weeks ago, Cooke Aquaculture sent trucks to transport young salmon from Port Medway harbour to the farm off Coffin Island. President of the Medway River Salmon Association Darrell Tingley, and some other members of the association, arrived at the wharf to protest on Friday (Jun 24) and Saturday (Jun 25).


Although there was an issue with Tingley trying to physically disrupt the truck, vice president of Cooke Aquaculture communications Nell Halse said the other gentlemen at the wharf were respectful of the process. Many actually stayed behind and were interested to hear more about Cooke's operations; what they were doing and why.


Halse said the process of transporting the fish is done safely and carefully, and the farms also implement preventive measures against losing fish. In fact, Cooke Aquaculture has not had an incident of fish escape from one of their farms for more than six years.


The farm off Coffin Island has been licensed for both trout and salmon for a long time, said Halse. Cooke Aquaculture bought the farm, and despite the growing concern of the community, there has been no change.


Halse said there has been some discussion as to why there has been no consultation about the farm. When a company applies for a new farm or makes boundary amendments to an existing farm, they are required to do a full environmental assessment and consultations. However, Halse said this is not applicable to the farm off Coffin Island.


Cooke Aquaculture has been in business for 25 years, and has been farming salmon for all of that time. Halse said the company is fully integrated, with their own hatcheries, farms, processing plants, and they make their own equipment.


"I think what the big message for us is we are not two solitudes here. This greedy company is on one hand and conservation and environmentalists on the other. We are also very concerned about conservation and environmental health. In fact, we cannot grow our fish in the ocean if it is not a healthy environment.


"Our farming managers have been able to work very closely with our equipment designers and engineers, and we have been modifying equipment and making it stronger and more suitable to some of the open ocean environments where we farm today," she said.

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