Fish farm owners “disappointed” about exclusion

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Cooke Aquaculture Vice President of Communications Nell Halse is “disappointed” the company had to hear about The Friends of Port Mouton Bay's recent meeting from the local media.

Halse says the company would have liked to be informed about the meeting, so they could have had a look at the information. “It would have been good if we could have seen these aerial photographs for ourselves as well as their interpretation of government data.”

The company is still examining what was published last week in The Advance, but Halse says the “plume” shown in aerial photos over the site is from natural current flows. She says when the photo was taken, they had only one cage occupied at the time.

Cooke Aquaculture took over the site from Aqua Fish Farms Ltd in Feb. of 2009, a month before the moratorium fin fish farming in Port Mouton Bay was announced. The company decided not to appeal the decision. “We felt the relationship with the community was so bad we needed to invest in that before aggravating the situation further,” says Halse.

At the end of Aug. the company plans to fallow the existing fish farm, something that hasn’t been done at the site in the past 15 years.

Fallowing under Cooke Aquaculture is done every cycle, a cycle being from smelt to full size harvestable fish. A cycle takes about 18-24 months.

Once fish is harvested, all equipment has to be cleaned and disinfected. A provincial veterinary come out and inspect all aspects of the site before any fish go back in. Since it is the first time the site has been fallowed, the company plans on taking equipment out and replacing some pieces so they meet company standards.

Halse says she doesn’t know how long the fallowing will be for this farm, because they also want to meet with Friends of Port Mouton Bay and the provincial government before starting another cycle.

Recently the company received their environmental impact report on the site, and they had contacted the group to arrange a meeting to discuss the results. “We had, in fact, just indicated to the Friends that we would like to meet with them in the next few weeks to share the recent results of the environmental monitoring program on this site, which are very positive by the way, and discuss our plans for the future.”

The license for the site in Port Mouton Bay is up for renewal in March of 2009, and Halse says they seeking renewal. “We’ve got some good information on the latest environmental report, and the fallowing of the site will make a huge difference.”

Halse also adds the company has taken over other farms with issues, and have successfully turned them around. “We have a history there, and our hope is the people in the community will give us some time to demonstrate what the results of this site is now that we’ve taken it on and fallow it. They will see some changes.”

Cooke Aquaculture is also ISO 65 eco certified, conducted with third party certification. This process involves inspecting all their facilities by an external auditor before the company can make this claim.

Organizations: Aqua Fish Farms

Geographic location: Port Mouton Bay, The Advance

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