Mike Rose, part of the team applying to set up salmon aquaculture sites near the communities of Burgeo, Ramea and La Poile, characterizes their approach to the project as slow and deliberate.
“I’ve grown up here in N.L.,” Rose said. “I know how important these areas are. I always think of the fishermen first and the fishing interest in these areas.”
Rose explained that the first thing that happened years ago was to try to meet with the individual fisherman in Burgeo, Ramea and LaPoile and understand their business, where they fished, how they fished, when they fished.
“After we had our meetings with them, we began to isolate and chose our sites on that basis,” he said. “Once they understood that we wouldn’t be interfering with their primary areas of interest and that they were generally supportive.
“We were pleased that we had some good discussions to start this process off and we’ll continue doing that with the fisherman in particular and obviously with the town councils and other community interests as well.”
After several scouting trips around the area, Rose believes they found the most ideal sites to set up.
“We had a serious look at where the opportunities were,” Rose said. “We were really delighted to see the most the most pristine, secluded, isolated area was from Ramea west. We settled on a series of sites that we think will be fantastic to develop in that area.”
Rose and his partners conducted two years of consultations at the community level.
“We always took the view that if it wasn’t welcomed by the towns, by the communities, then it wasn’t meant to be,” he said. “We hope not only that we can make it work, but that we can make it work for the great people that we met in Burgeo, Ramea and La Poile.”
Rose continued, “As we’ve been doing our environmental assessment, we’ve been working with local fishermen. We’ve been on their boats, they’ve taken us out and taught us a thing or two about the area and the potential sites and we’re delighted we’ve had that opportunity to work with them. We told them if we get this project up and running, that if they were interested, they would be prime candidates to work with us or work as independent contractors supplying services to us because who would know the marine environment better than the fishermen?”
N.L. based company
Since October 2017, the group Rose refers to has been conducting environmental assessments via current meters and temperature probes. They have also done bottom sampling video work and monitored the tides.
“We’re at a point now where we’ve satisfied the regulatory requirements for filing an application,” Rose said.
Rose and his partners formed an incorporated company specifically for the project called Green Island Salmon. The N.L. based company will take advantage of the fish farming experience of its Norwegian partners and significant investment coming out of Scandinavia. The team has been developing the project for three years.
“We’ve had groups here from Norway who have visited the area,” Rose said. “The people I deal with in Norway are delighted to bring some activity to that area of the province.”
Rose understands not everyone agrees with the concept of open ocean fish farming, but believes most residents support the project.
“The feedback we’ve gotten is that there would be benefits to seeing some economic activity in Burgeo, Ramea and LaPoile,” Rose commented. “Clearly not everyone is in favour of this activity, but this is a marine-based activity suitable for marine-based communities and I think it’s a great fit.”
Rose has been associated with the aquaculture industry in the province going back many years. He’s seen firsthand what it can do for places like Harbour Breton, Pool’s Cove and St. Albans.
“I’ve seen these communities go from a lot of elderly people with no young people staying around to young families putting up roots and schools being built, so it can make a difference notwithstanding the controversial attention it gets,” he said.
The plan is to set up three independent fish farms near the communities of Burgeo, Ramea and La Poile and then use a well boat to deliver the fish to a single processing plant. The location of the plant is still under consideration.
Rose admits that the distance of the planned farms will add additional costs and operational challenges.
“We see the separation as being a tremendous advantage from a bio security and fish health perspective,” Rose said. “It allows us to separate and manage in distinct areas.”
Rose is excited about the potential job opportunities for local residents.
“This industry starts out slow,” Rose explained. “In the beginning we will require small crews to establish the sites, five to seven people. We will start up with just one site, growing the fish, needing about 10 people or so at that early stage.
“As we expand the numbers will increase year after year. We could have in the fish growing operations, 30-40 people working across the Burgeo, Ramea and La Poile area. Jobs on land will come later. There may be opportunities for new companies to come in as support and service the industry.”
The company’s plans for various fish farming sites opens the door for additional jobs.
“And for bio security, we would want to use distinctive services such as net cleaning and diving,” Rose explained. “There’s an opportunity to repeat the growth and development you will see on the Bay D’Espoir side, repeating that in the Burgeo, La Poile, Ramea area.”
Rose said if they get to the point where they are producing 10,000-15,000 tonnes of fish annually, over the course of five to six years, he thinks you would see 150 or more jobs with the company and surrounding industries.
Rose plans to have the company’s applications filed for the sites within the next week or two. He expects the approval process, which is managed by the dept. of fish agriculture, to take six-10 months.
“If we’re successful and we get approval, we could have fish in the water by fall 2019 realistically,” Rose concluded.