Premier Dwight Ball confirmed Monday that his government will play a big role in the massive aquaculture project proposed for Placentia Bay. “We plan to be a significant partner in this project,” Ball told reporters Monday. And that’s welcome news for Grieg NL.
“We look forward to the government making an announcement,” said Grieg NL spokesperson Perry Power. “We’ve been in conversation with them and all indications are that’s forthcoming.
” Ball made the commitment just days after the Grieg NL project cleared the environmental assessment process, ending several years of uncertainty as the company fought off court challenges and critics who say the project would be bad for the environment. Company officials confirmed Monday that work on the $250-million project will begin in the coming weeks, starting with civil work on a hatchery facility in Marystown capable of producing seven million smolt — immature salmon — annually. ‘Full steam ahead’ Construction is expected to take between 18 and 24 months.
The project will also consist of 72 sea cages spread throughout 11 sites in Placentia Bay, which will produce 33,000 metric tonnes of farmed salmon. The company expects to reach full production six years after the hatchery is completed. “Full steam ahead,” said Power. “Our ownership are ready to go. They’re extremely pleased that we’re finally at this point.”
The premier would not say how invested his government will become, but said, “I’m not anticipating it will be $45 million.” That’s how much the previous PC administration pledged for an equity stake in the project leading up to the 2015 provincial election. Ball said government has set aside money for the project as part of its Way Forward strategy to double the size of the province’s aquaculture industry. “There’s quite a bit of provincial money that will go into this,” Ball said. Grieg NL is a division of Norway’s Grieg Group of Companies, which is in the top five worldwide for farmed salmon production.
One of the province’s leading seafood companies, Ocean Choice International, is also a 20 per cent owner of the project.
The project is being described as an economic game-changer for the hard-hit Burin Peninsula, creating 700 full-time direct jobs. An economic impact study by the company forecasts the project will sustain just under 2,000 jobs once peak production is reached. One of the questions still to be answered is where the company will situate its processing operations.
Power said that’s yet to be determined, but sources are saying the OCI facility in St. Lawrence is a leading candidate for an operation that will eventually sustain 120-plus year-round processing jobs.
As for the critics who worry about escapes and disease, the production manager for Grieg NL said the company is taking extreme measures to avoid such problems. Candice Way said Grieg will use sea cages from Norway that have not reported an escape in the six years they’ve been in use. She added that lump fish that love to fill their bellies with sea lice will also be added to the cages. And unlike other aquaculture operations on the province’s south coast, Grieg plans to grow their salmon to a much larger size at its land-based facility, which means they will spend just one season in the ocean instead of two. “We’re decreasing the amount of time at sea, and that’s reducing the potential for the fish to get diseases,” she said. Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador.