Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia speeding up approvals for shellfish aquaculture

Nova Scotia has moved to speed up approvals for shellfish aquaculture in the southernmost part of the province.

Oyster and mussel farming has been stymied in Nova Scotia by a lengthy regulatory process that treats shellfish operations the same as much more complex — and controversial — open-net pen finfish sites.

Under a newly designated aquaculture development, 53 pre-approved sites in the Municipality of Argyle will be made available for shellfish or marine plant aquaculture. The first six lease sites opened Monday with a June 15 application deadline.

“This is the first of its kind in Canada,” Kent Smith, the province’s fisheries and aquaculture minister, said Monday after making the announcement in Tusket.

Over a span of years, the municipality did much of the legwork, gathering science data, securing federal approvals, and holding public meetings — an effort to identify suitable sites.

It considers the Argyle aquaculture development area (ADA) a water-based industrial park.

Danny Muise is the warden of the Municipality of the District of Argyle. He said the streamlined lease process announced Monday will be considerably faster than going through the aquaculture review board. (Robert Short/CBC)

Lease applications will be subject to a provincial administrative review. It’s a much faster process than applying to the aquaculture review board — a quasi-judicial board whose few public hearings have been adversarial.

“It’s going to save them two to three years,” said Argyle Warden Danny Muise. “If they just apply for the licences, all the work we’ve done in the last few years has to be done by the government. They have to do all the testing, make sure they grow there. We did all this preliminary work for them.”

Oyster farmer Nolan D’Eon will apply for one of the sites. He said he could triple production in Argyle.

“It’s a really big deal for D’Eon Oyster, to be honest, because we can’t produce enough oysters on our lease for the demand,” he said.

He said the municipality has removed some of the uncertainty over whether a site is likely to be productive.

“If you have areas that have already been checked out and are pretty sure are going to grow and save two years…. It’s big,” he said.

Man wearing a red shirt and black vest and sunglasses stands outside on a sunny day.
Nolan D’Eon is the owner of D’Eon Oyster Company. He says the creation of pre-approved sites will help him meet market demand for his company’s oysters. (Robert Short/CBC)

Smith hopes aquaculture development areas can be exported to other parts of the province.

“But it’s going to depend on the municipality. We really relied on the folks in Argyle to do the groundwork and get community engagement and community buy-in,” Smith said.

“We’re here to help, but I think it’s got to be led by the municipality.”

The Municipality of Pictou County on the Northumberland Strait has expressed an interest, but is nowhere nearly as advanced as Argyle.

Monday’s announcement will mean nothing for those seeking approval for leases outside of Argyle. Some have been waiting for years.

They are still subject to a process that leads to the aquaculture review board.

Woman wearing beige shirt stands near a painting of fish.d
Charlene LeBlanc helped get the Argyle aquaculture development area going. She hopes the model can be exported to other parts of the province. (Robert Short/CBC)

“Some of those people will look at today’s announcement in frustration,” said Jeff Bishop of the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia.

“There’s somewhere close to two dozen aquaculture applications in the line for leases in projects across the province.”

For the Municipality of Argyle, this was hardly an overnight success. It has been pursuing faster approval for shellfish farming for at least eight years.

Charlene LeBlanc was development officer at the time. She has since moved on, starting a business in seeding lines for seaweed.

“We got it to the finish line today,” she said after the announcement, which took place at the municipal building.

“If another region of the province created an ADA, I would be over the moon,” she said.

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