While an expansion to the Indian Head Salmon Smolt Hatchery located near Port Harmon in Stephenville got the ministerial nod last week, there’s lots of conditions attached.
Northern Harvest Smolt Ltd. applied to Municipal Affairs and Environment to carry out the expansion, which provides smolts to the licensed sea cages that belong to Northern Harvest Sea Farms.
Northern Harvest Smolt wants to modernize and expand its hatchery facility in Stephenville, including a land-based production facility comprised of the latest in recirculation technology and allow Northern Harvest Sea Farms to fully utilize its licensed marine sites.
As part of the expansion, there will be more tanks at the facility to grow the smolt larger and introduce them to salt water before they are shipped off. The industry is now using larger smolt and by bringing salt water in to the operation in Stephenville, it creates an environment in the hatchery for the fish to be larger and better fit to transition from fresh to seawater.
It’s a costly venture — about $51 million, involving more sophisticated technology, employment in the building phases and more long term employment once the expansion goes into operation.
But the expansion is not without its critics as the Atlantic Salmon Federation believes the 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.
However, the minister says it can proceed if conditions are met, including a hydro-geologic assessment of the proposed groundwater source by a qualified hydro-geologic professional and submitted to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Environment for approval.
The implementation of a groundwater monitoring program to monitor water levels and water quality over at least a two-year period is another condition that must be met. The company is required to install a real time water quality and quantity monitoring network within two months from the release date.
Another condition is to provide proof of a minimum $1,000,000 surety bond or guaranteed letter of credit from a recognized lending institution, to be held as financial security should the hydrological assessment and groundwater monitoring, including real-time monitoring, not be completed and as per the release condition.
The company has to also demonstrate waste from the hatchery can be managed in a manner that meets the approval of the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment, by submitting a comprehensive Waste Management Plan prior to the commencement of hatchery operations.
Another condition requires the company to complete a pathogen profile of the saltwater source to ensure biosecurity of the hatchery. This profile must be determined and reviewed by the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources and the company veterinarian prior to the commencement of hatchery operations.
There are also a few other conditions and understandably so since it’s in the best interest of everyone, from the people working there to the protection of the environment.
The community welcomes more jobs but safety and the protection of the environment are paramount.