The Atlantic Salmon Federation says it believes a proposal by Northern Harvest Smolt Ltd. to expand its Indian Head Atlantic salmon hatchery in Stephenville cannot legally proceed through the environmental assessment process in its current form.
“This project is an integral part of a larger undertaking to expand the parent company’s aquaculture production on the south coast of Newfoundland,” Dr. Stephen Sutton, the federation’s co-ordinator of community outreach and engagement, states in a letter to the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment.
“As acknowledged by the proponent, that undertaking includes expansion of farming activities in the marine environment, activities which are known to have significant negative impacts on wild Atlantic salmon and the surrounding environment.
“Despite describing the hatchery expansion in detail, the proponent has failed to describe any aspects of the expansion of the marine component of their operations. This appears to be a deliberate attempt to avoid having their plans for expanded marine farming subjected to the scientific and public scrutiny of an environmental assessment.”
In documents filed with the provincial government, Northern Harvest Smolt Ltd. states the proposed expansion will provide smolts to the licensed sea cages that belong to Northern Harvest Sea Farms. The project is intended to improve production capacity and quality of salmon smolts produced for the company and to increase salmon aquaculture production for the province.
The project includes upgrades to improve efficiency of the existing facility, expansion of the hatchery, and new supporting infrastructure such as freshwater and saltwater supply and effluent treatment and discharge.
The undertaking was registered through the environmental assessment process on July 17.
The deadline for public comment was Aug. 21 and the minister’s decision is due on Aug. 31.
In his letter, Sutton says that according to provincial legislation, the entire undertaking must be registered for environmental assessment so that the true environmental footprint of the proposed activities can be investigated in an open and transparent manner.
“We are concerned that the proponent is contravening provincial legislation by splitting the undertaking into separate components to avoid subjecting the most environmentally damaging component to the scientific and public scrutiny of an environmental assessment,” Sutton writes.
“As a result, the potentially significant impacts on threatened wild Atlantic salmon and the fisheries they support will not be addressed. The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Environment does not have the jurisdiction to allow this project to proceed in its current form and must order the proponent to register the undertaking in its totality.”