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Aquaculture Regulatory Review

Nova Scotia is undertaking a legally required review of aquaculture regulations in the province. We are urging our supporters to ensure that Minister Steve Craig knows that open-net pen salmon farming does not have social licence in our province. We must be heard loud and clear!

HBN Submissions

Detailed feedback provided to the NSDFA and by HBN groups regarding issues with the current system of aquaculture regulation:

  • Ecology Action Centre submission

  • Twin Bays Coalition submission

NSDFA Survey

In September of 2022, the NSDFA issued a six-question survey to consult the public. The questions did not allow respondents to comment on the full suite of regulatory issues identified by communities. Here are our "short answers" to the other survey questions that were ultimately answered by more than 950 concerned people and groups.

Survey Questions


What factors are important to you in how aquaculture is regulated in Nova Scotia?

Our response:

  • Protection marine ecosystems and biodiversity

  • Recognition of the marine environment as a public commons

  • Separate roles of promotion and regulation

  • Clear, evidence-based ecological criteria to guide aquaculture siting

  • Respect for Indigenous sovereignty and support for Nation-to-Nation aquaculture management dialogue 

  • Respect for coastal communities, requirement for industry to seek and obtain social license to operate in a coastal community

  • Clear requirements for meaningful public engagement, and public participation in decision-making processes

  • Transparency, timeliness, and openness of communication with the public

  • Public access to information, with burden on operators to prove necessity of information confidentiality

  • Government and industry accountability through transparent public reporting, compliance and enforcement programs


What aspects of Nova Scotia’s current aquaculture regulatory framework are working well, and why?

Our response:

This review process should be recognized as an aspect of the regulations that is working well. Holding the regulatory system accountable to the rightsholders, stakeholders, and interested publics within a standardized timeframe is an appropriate way to ensure continued improvement going forward. 


Where do you see a need for improvement in Nova Scotia’s aquaculture regulations, and why?

Our response:

​There is substantial room for regulatory improvement across the aquaculture sectors. Key amendments are outlined below:

  • High-impact proposals (e.g., open-net pen finfish) must be subject to clear, evidence-based ecological siting criteria, followed by scrutiny from public, independent experts, and civil society groups.

  • Regulations for high-impact proposals must require that companies conduct multiple community consultations during the project scoping phase, with advanced warning and through a variety of media.

  • The Province must ensure that companies are required to respect social licence and existing community development plans in local communities.

  • The Aquaculture Review Board process should be replaced with a "specialized (environmental) impact assessment process" that is managed by the provincial Department of Environment and Climate Change.

  • Non-local civil society groups and concerned citizens should be granted status to act as intervenors in decision-making processes, and the Province must provide financial / legal assistance to intervenors for a level playing field. 

  • Companies should be subject to the revocation of licence after multiple environmental infractions and / or community complaints.

  • Regulatory and administrative burden on small-scale, low-impact operators should be eased, with Province providing support for low-capital start-ups.


See our more detailed recommendations HERE.


Is the information the government provides on aquaculture and the aquaculture regulations sufficient and accessible to you?

Our response:

At current, Nova Scotia's regulatory system fails to provide information critical to understanding the impacts of aquaculture operation on marine ecosystems. The Doelle-Lahey report sets clear guidance on how the NSDFA should be managing the communication of aquaculture information with the public (pg. 58):

"...the assumption should be that information is public unless a regulated business clearly establishes that it is confidential business information…”

We urge the immediate public release of the the following information:


  • Weekly sea lice counts, including sites and treatment profiles

  • All finfish disease outbreaks, including dates, sites and culls

  • All finfish escape events, including dates, sites and recovery plans

  • All public investment and financing for aquaculture research and development

  • All aquaculture Farm Management Plans


The aquaculture regulations support the sustainable development of the industry. Are there additional measures needed to ensure the sustainability of the industry?

Our response:

Right-sized regulations are key to the sustainability of the industry: holding high-impact fish farms accountable while easing burden low-impact, small-scale shellfish and seaweed developments, as per Doelle-Lahey report recommendations (pg. 18):

"...ensure that the requirements imposed by the regulatory framework on large and small operators are proportionate to the risks that the framework is intended to control."

See our more detailed recommendations HERE.


Do you have any other comments to share to inform the review?

Our response:

We do not support the expansion of open-net pen finfish farming in our waters, and we urge the NSDFA to establish a cap on new sea-cage finfish licences. Regulations should prepare Nova Scotia for a transition away from net pen technologies, as is happening in B.C., in favour of shellfish, seaweed, and land-based closed containment finfish alternatives.

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