Appeal of fish farm decision costly

John DeMings
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Coastal Alliance ordered to pay $10,500 in legal costs of Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd.

The St. Mary’s Bay Coastal Alliance is on the hook for at least some of an aquaculture company’s legal fees following a Nova Scotia Supreme Court decision announced today in Halifax.

Appealing a provincial decision to allow salmon farms in Grand Passage and Freeport has resulted in a judgment against St. Mary’s Bay’s Coastal Alliance.

Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd. had been seeking to recover $83,000 in legal costs, or $23,000 had a different yardstick been applied by the court.

In the end, the court granted the company $10,500.

On June 8, 2011, the province’s Fisheries and Aquaculture minister issued aquaculture leases and licences to Kelly Cove for two fish farms in Grand Passage and Freeport. The Grand Passage site was stocked with young salmon at the end of June.

On July 7, an appeal of the minister’s decision was launched by the coastal alliance—a group composed of the villages of Freeport, Tiverton and Westport, as well as Freeport Community Development Association and the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

The appeal was dropped after 23 months, and three months before it came to court.

Inn his decision,  Justice Patrick J. Murray wrote the decision to discontinue the appeal came about as a result of negotiations between the alliance members and government.

“The outcome of these discussions is an important factor on this motion,” wrote Justice Murray. “The outcome was that there would be policy reforms by the minister for future plans in aquaculture. The minister announced the appointment of an expert panel to recommend improvements to the regulatory framework of the aquaculture industry.”

The court recognized the company incurred legal costs because of the appeal, and had a substantial investment to protect, although it should have known that it had begun stock salmon before the end of the appeal period.

It also noted that there was no indication of the actual costs and time of the company’s legal counsel.

“While I am prepared to acknowledge a public interest aspect to the appeal, I am not prepared to draw an inference that the appellants have no ability to respond or that they should be immune from party and party costs all together,” wrote Justice Murray.

“This is my view even if Kelly Cove is in the better financial position to handle costs.”

The case was heard before the court on Oct. 17 in Halifax, and the written decision handed down Jan. 31.

Organizations: Kelly Cove Salmon, Grand Passage, Freeport Community Development Association Atlantic Salmon Federation

Geographic location: Westport, Halifax

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