Har­bour Grace ship­builder op­ti­mistic about aquaculture pro­ject

Placentia Bay salmon farm tied up in en­vi­ron­men­tal review, court pro­ceed­ings

The Compass - - Front page - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

— A lo­cal ship­build­ing com­pany re­mains con­fi­dent about the fu­ture of Grieg Aquaculture’s ocean-based salmon farm pro­posal in Placentia Bay.

Har­bour Grace Ocean En­ter­prises (HGOE) has a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing in place with the fish farm­ing com­pany to build at least seven fi­bre­glass ser­vice ves­sels for the first phase of the pro­ject, plus 12 state-of-the-art feed barges with com­put­er­ized fea­tures.

“And (there’s) a huge, huge op­por­tu­nity for projects be­yond this one for the in­ter­na­tional mar­kets for Har­bour Grace and New­found­land and Labrador as a whole,” HGOE op­er­a­tions man­ager Wayne Reid told The Compass last week.

Though he was re­luc­tant to pin­point an ex­act dol­lar value for work re­lated to the MOU, Reid sug­gests it would be in the high mil­lions, cre­at­ing ap­prox­i­mately 200 jobs at HGOE.

When that work might get un­der­way is un­cer­tain in light of a re­cent Supreme Court de­ci­sion re­quir­ing the Placentia Bay pro­ject to un­dergo an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment.

Then-en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Perry Trimper re­leased the pro­ject from en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment last year. It would rep­re­sent the largest ex­pan­sion of salmon aquaculture in eastern Canada and the first com­mer­cial use of a Euro­pean-strain triploid salmon in the re­gion.

The At­lantic Salmon Fed­er­a­tion took the min­is­ter’s de­ci­sion to court. Last month, Jus­tice Gil­lian But­ler ruled there was sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic con­cern about the pro­posed salmon farm and the po­ten­tial for se­ri­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­fects.

Grieg Aquaculture re­leased a state­ment fol­low­ing the court’s rul­ing that said it re­mains com­mit­ted to the pro­ject and deemed the court’s de­ci­sion to be of “low risk” to the com­pany’s plans. The com­pany also ex­pects the prov­ince will ap­peal the de­ci­sion.

Reid said he un­der­stands there’s a need for due dili­gence when it comes to projects like the one Grieg is propos­ing.

“At the same time, we be­lieve this has been done,” he said. “We’ve been fol­low­ing this story for the past few years, and there has been quite a bit of due dili­gence put in place so far I think that the pub­lic’s not quite aware of.”

Reid and one of his busi­ness part­ners have vis­ited ex­ist­ing sites in Nor­way sim­i­lar to what’s pro­posed in Placentia Bay.

“When you look at some of the sites that are al­ready ex­ist­ing and the econ­omy in Nor­way be­cause of this aquaculture farm­ing and the way it’s done, it’s an ex­treme eye opener for New­found­land.”

Har­bour Grace Coun. Hay­ward Blake is con­cerned about what de­lays in the pro­ject will mean for the com­mu­nity, given the num­ber of lo­cal jobs wait­ing in the wings.

“I think it’s im­por­tant that we be world play­ers in this mar­ket,” he said. “I mean, we all hear of food sus­tain­abil­ity and we need to pro­duce that as a food sup­ply. We only need to look at the Coast of Bays re­gion, where I was born, and see the em­ploy­ment that was gen­er­ated there and see the ac­tiv­ity and see that they are pro­duc­ing sig­nif­i­cant vol­umes of salmon and fil­leted trout that hit the Boston mar­kets daily. That’s proven to be a re­newal for the com­mu­ni­ties — Her­mitage and Har­bour Bre­ton, St. Al­ban’s and places like that. Now this par­tic­u­lar pro­ject was prov­ing to be a sig­nif­i­cant boost to the ar­eas in Placentia Bay, and places like Har­bour Grace would ben­e­fit … All of that has now been de­layed and stalled for an in­def­i­nite amount of time.”

While there’s no clear an­swer to how things will play out in the fu­ture, HGOE has lots of work on its plate. The com­pany is build­ing ves­sels for Nova Sco­tia and Labrador, and it re­cently launched the largest fi­bre­glass fish­ing ves­sel ever built — a 90-by-28-foot ship. The com­pany em­ploys any­where from 65-85 work­ers year-round.

“We have three years of book­ings right now for ship­build­ing,” said Reid.

When you look at some of the sites that are al­ready ex­ist­ing and the econ­omy in Nor­way be­cause of this aquaculture farm­ing and the way it’s done, it’s an ex­treme eye opener for New­found­land.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Last year, Har­bour Grace Ocean En­ter­prises’ launched its first boat. The com­pany has a lot rid­ing on a pro­posed ocean-based salmon farm in Placentia Bay cur­rently tied up in le­gal pro­ceed­ings.

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