N.S. aquaculture company defends practices amid allegations from residents
One of our region's biggest aquaculture companies is defending its practices amid criticism from a retired couple living along Nova Scotia’s south shore.
Kathaleen Milan and her husband Ron Neufeld say there are huge numbers of dead fish around Cooke Aquaculture in Shelburne Harbour, N.S.
“We've become watchers now,” said Milan. “We watch what's going on. We are constantly keeping guard on what's happening on the farm because the government isn't. That's just the bottom line."
The couple moved from the valley to escape a fish farm in their own backyard, only to take on new concerns at two sites along the south shore.
They recently shot video of the cages at Jordan Bay and in Shelburne Harbour.
“We went over and started watching what was going on,” said Milan. “There's harvest and boats that have been there and next to them they're dragging out all of these tons of dead fish."
Cooke Aquaculture spokesperson Neil Halse tells CTV News that in late February, the company suffered some fish losses due to extreme, consecutive storms in one week.
"We have fish health professionals and veterinarians who monitor and test on a regular basis,” Halse said in a statement. “There is no evidence of disease. The Department of Fisheries and aquaculture staff have been to the farm and so has the Department of Environment."
“It is unfortunate that we are asked to comment on normal farming activities every time there is a storm event."
But the couple isn’t so sure weather is the only problem. Their strolls along the beach also turned up some unexpected surprises.
“There's a number of concerns that I have to do with the escapes,” said Ron Neufeld. “Some fish escapes, if they mixed with the wild fish in the area, there can be serious consequences.”
They acknowledge there has been some change and new regulations.
"They're really touting all of these new regulations, but you can have regulations from here to China,” said Milan. “But if you don't enforce them, they're worth nothing."
The couple has filed numerous access to information requests, but say they usually wind up with heavily redacted documents, leaving many of their questions unanswered.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Marie Adsett.