[St. Andrews, N.B.] — Despite a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court ruling requiring the Placentia Bay aquaculture project to have “the highest level of further environmental assessment,” the provincial government has decided to appeal.

Notice was provided by the Crown to the Newfoundland Court of Appeal on Aug. 25.

“The effort from this government to avoid a full environmental assessment for Grieg’s Placentia Bay project is outrageous,” says Bill Taylor, president of the Atlantic Salmon Federation. “The province is obviously willing to incur huge additional costs and delay the process further in an attempt to avoid what the Judge says is a ‘duty owed to the people of the province.’”

The Newfoundland Liberal government, whose members were critical of open net-pen salmon aquaculture while in opposition, has tried twice already to skip a full environmental assessment of Grieg’s planned salmon cages in Placentia Bay:

  • In October 2015, the project was registered for screening, a first step in the regulatory process, without including a description of sea-cage activities. It only focused on the hatchery. This decision was reversed after advice from the Department of Justice and the sea cages were eventually added to the description for screening.
  • In February 2016, a new description including the open net-pens in Placentia Bay was registered, but subsequently released from environmental assessment in July. This decision was later quashed via the judicial review launched by ASF.

“The premier and his ministers fail to see the court decision actually provides a way forward for this project, and that’s by completing a full environmental assessment in the form of an environmental impact statement. Salmon aquaculture should be treated no different than any other industry, and in this case the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador agrees.” Taylor says.

A full environmental assessment gathers baseline data, tests assumptions, predicts negative impacts and identifies ways to reduce or control them. Once all the information is gathered and made public, cabinet decides if a project should proceed.

Currently there are seven provincial environmental assessments in progress. They include two soft shell clam aquaculture projects, an access road and a golf course. No salmon aquaculture project in the province has ever been required to complete an environmental impact statement, despite such well-known environmental problems as escapes, disease, pollution and sea lice.

“ASF will rise to the challenge and fight this unnecessary appeal. Once again, we’re left to defend the public interest against a government that has already broken the rules twice,” Taylor says.