Wild salmon advocates don't agree with the province's decision to release Grieg NL Seafarm, a proposed multimillion-dollar aquaculture project, from further environmental assessment. In fact, they want to see that ruling reversed.
The Atlantic Salmon Federation has submitted an appeal under the Environmental Protection Act which will require a response from the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Perry Trimper, within 30 days.
"We believe that there will be significant impacts from that farm on wild salmon in Placentia Bay," says Steve Sutton, Coordinator of Community Engagement with the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
"These are wild salmon populations that have been assessed as being threatened by the federal government. So there are concerns about those populations and how they will be affected by the aquaculture project."
Grieg NL Seafarms has proposed a $250 million salmon farm in Placentia Bay that includes a $75 million hatchery in Marystown.
It would be one of the largest aquaculture operations in the country, and could employ hundreds of people.
"We know the importance of aquaculture. We know the jobs it will bring and the income it will bring." said Sutton.
"It's not an easy decision when you decide to challenge something like this, but we think there have been enough problems with the way this has been handled that it needed to be done."
Fears of foreign contamination
One of those problems is the introduction of a foreign strain of salmon. The Norweigan-based company plans to import European salmon and render them sterile to reduce the risk of genetically contaminating local populations through interbreeding if fish escape the pens.
"There's no doubt that using sterile fish is better than using non-sterile fish," said Sutton. "The problem is, the process to make the fish sterile is not one hundred per cent effective."
Sutton would like the company to design a monitoring program that would identify any escapes. He said the only way that program could be developed is through an environmental impact statement.
He said he's not sure what the appeal will accomplish, but hopes the minister will review the group's arguments and reverse his decision — or impose new conditions on the company.
Government also faces a challenge within the court system. Last month, St. John's lawyer Owen Myers filed a lawsuit against the province for its decision to release the project from further environmental assessment.
Myers is also calling for a full environmental impact statement.