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New Muchalat Inlet fish farm gets go-ahead

CANADA - Just one week after a legislative committee recommended the elimination of open-net pen salmon farms from British Columbia's waters, the provincial government has approved a new farm in Nootka Sound.

Agriculture Minister Pat Bell issued an aquaculture licence to Grieg Seafood BC Ltd. for a new salmon farm near Concepcion Point in Muchalat Inlet. The application has been under consideration for more than four years.

"It really is a technically very, very sound site and technically very sound application,' said Bell. "It's probably one of the best sites on the coast," said Bell

The Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation agreed that the site was appropriate and it fits the land-use plan for the region and Bell said that he could find no reason at this point not approve it.

Approval of the new farm should not be interpreted as a sign that the BC government is discounting last week's report of the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture.

NDP fisheries critic Robin Austin, who was committee chairman, would not comment yesterday on the newly approved farm. But Catherine Stewart of the environmental group Living Oceans Society said she is convinced Bell is trying to send a message about the report with this approval.

"The timing is not coincidental,'' Stewart said. "I think this is just a real slap in the face and a way of showing his contempt for the work that the committee did and the submissions that hundreds of people made, both pro and con -- he's effectively dismissing the report out of hand.''

Grieg plans to begin operations at Concepcion Point this summer. According to the ministry, the farm will have a "grow-out" of about 4,100 metric tonnes of salmon per cycle and employ six people.

This application has had a thorough technical review. All of the biological information has been provided. "I'm not going to suggest that we will not accept any or all of the recommendations of the special legislative committee. But there's a lot of work to be done reviewing the report and I think it was appropriate at this point to approve this farm, said Bell.

The province is considering 18 other fish-farm applications. There are 132 approved fish farm sites in B.C., with between 60 and 80 operational at any one time.

Source:Times Colonist

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