Loch Duart has renewed farm licences on the east coast of Nova Scotia (circled) but doesn't intend to farm there. Map: Google

We’ve no plans for Canada says Loch Duart after Nova Scotia licence renewals

Salmon farmer Loch Duart has been granted licence renewals for two farm sites in Nova Scotia, Canada but has reiterated its previous stance that it has no intention of farming the sites.

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It has also rebutted claims by groups opposed to salmon farming in the area that equipment used at the farms hadn’t been cleared and is “still rotting away” in Ship Harbour, north of Wolfes Island on Nova Scotia’s east coast.

Loch Duart’s brief Canadian adventure began in early 2012 when it announced plans to expand to Nova Scotia, based on an opportunity to purchase an existing site (with stock and equipment) at Owls’ Head, around 4km to the south west of the Ship Harbour site.

Superchill mortality

The site had been successfully farmed since 2008, but during the winter of 2012/2013 many of the fish at the farms, run by Loch Duart subsidiary Snow Island Salmon Inc., were killed by a superchill event during which water temperatures plunged.

Loch Duart, which produces around 6,000 tonnes of salmon annually in Sutherland and the Uists in Scotland, chose not to continue farming in Nova Scotia after that, but last year applied to renew licences for its sites there.

The sites at Ship Harbour and Owl’s Head Bay have since been given 20-year leases and 10-year licences for the farming of Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout, something which has upset anti-salmon farming groups.

Uncompromisingly anti: an APES billboard. Image: APES website.

‘Loud opposition’

In a press release to news website The Nova Scotia Advocate, which says it “provides a voice for the many Nova Scotians who too often are ignored”, they complain that the renewals are the third time in four months that NS fisheries minister Keith Colwell has approved a finfish farm lease “despite loud opposition from the very Nova Scotian community where the lease is located”.

The others were in Liverpool Bay and Port Mouton.

The groups are also complaining that the decisions about Loch Duart’s leases were only made public last week, three months after they were made, and allege some of the company’s equipment is still on site.

Gear ‘left behind’

“After a massive fish die-off at the Ship Harbour site back in 2012, the licence holder disappeared, leaving behind all their gear,” they write.

Wendy Watson Smith, president of the Association for the Preservation of the Eastern Shore (APES), continues: “Eight years later and it’s still there rotting away. What’s changed to warrant this licence’s renewal?”

APES was formed in 2012 to oppose net pen salmon farming and publishes links on its website to veteran anti-salmon farming campaigners such as self-styled “independent biologist” Alexandra Morton and the David Suzuki Foundation. 

Cleared by contractor

“Loch Duart has no plans to start farming on these sites,” the company told Fish Farming Expert today.

“The licence renewal process is a regulatory routine to maintain the lease as operational. 

“Loch Duart paid a contractor in summer and autumn of 2019 to remove any remaining debris and we believe that operation was completed satisfactorily.”