Application Process

All proponents and lease applicants must follow the process as outlined by the NSDFA regulations

 
The Red Box
What is the red box?

This red box indicates the area Town Point Oysters (TPO) applied for and was granted an "Option to Lease". An option to lease is NOT a lease. This option to lease grants TPO the exclusive right to scope areas within the boundaries of the red box to determine what portions may be appropriate farm sites. Once appropriate sites have been determined, these locations will be specified in our application for a lease. Please see lease locations to view our proposed lease sites. 

“Once an Option to lease has been issued, the option holder is given the exclusive right to identify an appropriate site within the option area informed through a scoping process, which may result in a lease application. The approval or rejection of a license and lease application will be governed by a defined process, with the decision being made by an Independent Review Board based on factors set out in regulations.”- Nova Scotia Fisheries & Aquaculture. 

Why the red box?

The regulations pertaining to aquaculture lease applications were revised in 2015. Prior to this revision of the regulations, there was no requirement for public engagement during the lease application process and no protection for an applicant from possible competing applicants. This lack of protection meant applicants could be at risk that another party would compete for the same lease locations should they publicize their interest in submitting a lease application.

Following negative feedback resulting from lease approvals granted without public engagement, the regulators were advised to add public engagement as a required step in the lease application process. This OPTION to LEASE period provides protection to the applicant by granting exclusive rights to conduct SCOPING within the defined area. This step was added to enable the applicant to conduct public engagement openly without risk of a competitor applying for a lease in the same area.

The application for an OPTION does not require public disclosure. Once an applicant has been granted the OPTION to LEASE (the red box), they can then openly engage with the public without risk of competition throughout the option to lease period. During the lease application period, the applicant is not entitled to do anything in the defined area beyond the collection of information relevant to the design and operation of an aquaculture business.

What is Scoping?

“Scoping is a process to determine the suitability of an area for aquaculture, to engage local stakeholders and identify potential concerns. It is a tool through which the effects of a proposed undertaking are predicted and evaluated. It allows a subsequent decision to be made on the acceptability of the proposed development and defines required changes to the proposal to minimize effects identified. Information collected during the scoping process is used as part of the application for an aquaculture site development.” - Quote from Fisheries and Aquaculture, Proponents Guide to Public Engagement during Scoping for Aquaculture Development 

Those that wish to see the official scoping document may contact Nova Scotia Fisheries & Aquaculture. 

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salinity meter

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Public Engagement

An important component of Scoping is Public Engagement. This process requires the applicant to inform members of the public and other stakeholders about the farm plan including the species to be grown, the size and location of the leases, the intended farming techniques, how the farm will operate, etc. This communication is necessary so that those potentially directly and substantially impacted by the farm may understand how the farm could impact them. The applicant is to seek feedback, particularly from those directly and substantially impacted so that the applicant may consider mitigation measures should the impacts be negative. This dialogue is important to community members so that they have an opportunity to ask questions and express concerns.

Our approach to public engagement has been to go door to door to meet area residents, describe our plans, discuss oyster aquaculture, answer any questions, and ask if there are concerns. These meetings have been recorded mostly in the residents own handwriting including a segment where they have been asked to record their own thoughts about our plans and oyster aquaculture in Antigonish Harbour. These meetings have taken as long as the resident has desired, many lasting 2 hours or more. We have invited people to come to our property to see for themselves where we hope to locate the farm and to examine the equipment we plan to use.

The principle objective of these meetings has been to provide information and to seek feedback. As feedback has been accumulated, we considered it along with data collected from the chosen lease sites which led to lease layout revisions (revisions here). Without this process, it is impossible for the applicant to know or understand the impact of the farm on other stakeholders. We have encouraged community members to have open dialogue with us so that their feedback may be considered in our application. 

  

Support is appreciated but is not critical to the process. What is important is effective public engagement, particularly with those who may be considered by the adjudicators to be directly and substantially impacted. We have met in person with hundreds of area residents including those who may be considered directly and substantially affected. Furthermore, through the public panel discussion at StFX, we have fulfilled the requirement of public engagement with all 257 people in attendance. 

 

The panel discussion and open house organized and hosted by StFX University Aquatic Resources and chaired by Dr David Garbary attracted 257 attendees. During this meeting, we described our farm plan in detail via PowerPoint. We discussed the location and size of desired lease areas, our mitigation measures in response to public feedback, etc. In addition to our PowerPoint presentation and the Q&A component of the meeting, we also had a poster board display with representatives answering questions from the attendees. This is all public engagement.

 

We have met and/or spoken with a broad spectrum of “other users” who are also important stakeholders. Oyster harvesters, fishers, recreational boaters, the Antigonish Boat Club, local business owners, government representatives, First Nations representatives, and area residents have been contacted and brought into the public engagement process. While it is impossible to reach everyone, particularly since some have chosen to opt-out for their own reasons, we have been very diligent in our efforts to conduct effective public engagement. So far more than 400 individuals have been directly and in-person informed of our plans and asked for their input.

 

Our public engagement efforts will continue into the fall when we hope to file an application. Prior to submitting our application, we will conduct a public information session - the date of which will be advertised. We will continue reaching out to the community to seek feedback and we invite the community to contact us if you have questions or concerns.

 
Lease Locations

Initial Farm Plan

Public Feedback

Current Farm Plan

Site 1 is an on-bottom storage site for excess seed and over-winter storage site for market-size oysters. These units will be sunk on the bottom. Sites 2 & 3 are grow sites and will contain grow units form April to October. 

Initial Farm Plan

Soon after the approval of the Option to Lease, we began the scoping process. Our first step was to design an initial Farm Plan layout and present it to our immediate neighbours on Town Point. This was done both as a courtesy to our nearest neighbours and to receive early stages feedback prior to reaching out to the broader community. Based on the feedback we received from this small group of residents and some data collection on the proposed sites, we revised our Farm Plan to remove the Graham’s Cove portion and reduce the size of the Captain’s Island site bringing us Revision 1.

Farm Plan Revision 1

Removed Graham’s Cove portion and reduce the size of the Captain’s Island site.

Using revision 1 of the Farm Plan, we then conducted public engagement door to door in a broader region within the community. We also collected more detailed data from the proposed sites. This led to a further revision of the proposed Farm Plan. It was further reduced in size and became more detailed in shape bringing us to Revision 2.

Farm Plan Revision 2

Further reduced in size and more detailed in shape.

We then took Farm Plan Revision 2 and conducted more public engagement, collected more data from the sites, met with important stakeholders such as commercial oyster harvesters, recreational fishers & boaters, and local small business owners. Oyster harvesters indicated the specific areas they use, and we agreed to step away from these locations.

An important feature of the latest revision was building in right of passage around the two grow sites. We had planned to have these two lease areas go to shore on the advice of other farmers who felt there could be an operational benefit of including landing areas within these sites. Feedback from public engagement indicated an important community desire to have right of passage, so we have willingly stepped away from the shore areas to include right of passage.

Farm Plan Revision 3

Remove areas used by oyster harvesters

Add right of passage around grow sites

Farm Plan Revision 3 was presented at the Public Panel Discussion as it was the current farm plan at that time. Since then there have been further revisions as described below. 

We then took Farm Plan Revision 3 and engaged with multiple bird specialists concerning proximity to Piping Plover habitat on Dunn's Beach. We spent significant time, effort, and energy to learn about local piping plover habitat and potential risks that may be posed by our proposed oyster aquaculture operation.  We have consulted with Randy Lauff, at Saint Francis Xavier University, (StFX), ornithological consultant Clarence Stevens, Dillon Consulting, The Ecology Action Centre, NS Dept. of Lands and Forestry, and Bird Studies Canada.  Based on their feedback, we reduced the size and moved the location of the Gooseberry Island lease, to create a buffer consistent with the collective advice from these experts.

TPO engaged Dillon Consulting to study other circumstances involving aquaculture operations functioning adjacent to known Piping Plover nesting and foraging sites. This study determined no harmful impact from similar low intensity operations provided there was a buffer of 200m. We have proposed 230m separation from the harbour side of Dunn's Beach even though Plovers use the bay side of the beach which is further away. 

 Current Farm Plan

Moved area 3 further from Dunn's Beach to provide suitable separation from Piping Plover habitat.

Reduced total lease areas to 36.63 ha.

This is the farm plan version included in our application submitted to NSDFA.

 Submitted Farm Plan

Below is the farm plan that was submitted to NSDFA in our application. 

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This is the farm plan diagram that is included in our application submitted to NSDFA. Our application is publicly viewable on the NSDFA website.

 

Current Farm Plan 

on map of entire harbour

Statistics

  • Total Harbour Surface Area = 4400 acres

  • Total surface area of farm 90.3 acres

  • Farm occupies 2% of harbour

  • Growth units occupy <4% of lease area

  • Portion of harbour covered by growth units =  >0.1%

Right-Sizing the Farm

The exercise of right-sizing the farm involves weighing the competing interests of economic output and harmony with other users. On one hand, the farm needs to be large enough to ensure sufficient revenue to cover all costs plus a reasonable margin. On the other hand, the farm needs to be small enough to harmoniously co-exist with the other users of the harbour. We believe, and feedback collected from public engagement supports, that the current Farm Plan provides a reasonable balance between these competing interests.

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Further explanation of the application process can be found at

Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries & Aquaculture