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It’s payback time: Cooke Aquaculture repays province after failing to build fish plant in Shelburne

<p>Cooke Aquaculture’s salmon farm in Shelburne County.</p>
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<p>Cooke Aquaculture’s salmon farm in Shelburne County.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>

SHELBURNE – Cooke Aquaculture has repaid the province $2 million because it didn’t build a processing plant in Shelburne County.

“With the $2 million repayment, Cooke is in compliance with the terms and conditions of its loan,” said Mel Rusinak, a representative for Nova Scotia Business Inc.

The money paid back April 8 was part of $25 million in funding announced for the company by the government in 2012. Of that total, $9 million was a forgivable loan and $4 million was tied to the number of jobs created, research development and commercialization of innovation in the aquaculture industry.

The company only accessed $18 million of the funding.

Cooke had planned to create a fish processing plant in Shelburne County, which it said would have created 320 jobs, in addition to a hatchery in Digby and a feed mill in Truro.

Parts of the commitment was realized, including the feed mill in Truro.

In 2012, Cooke Aquaculture had announced it would invest $150 million on operations in Shelburne County.

Nell Halse, spokesperson for Cooke Aquaculture, said in a phone interview one of the main reasons the fish plant in Shelburne did not happen was because of a regulatory review the province conducted and the hold on any new aquaculture sites during the review.

The Nova Scotia government issued a moratorium on any new fish farm sites in May 2013 while the conducting the review. The Doelle Lahey report issued recommendations in December 2014. New aquaculture legislation was passed in October 2015.

Cooke approached the government to extend the timeline of the terms, but the request was refused, said Halse.

Town of Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatall would like to see the money Cooke has paid back to the province come back to the area.

“When (Cooke) received the money, it could have meant a large number of jobs in a community desperate for the opportunity to have jobs,” she said.

Town representatives have not heard back from the province about the request to earmark the cash for economic development in Shelburne County.

“We can always find opportunities that will benefit the economy of the area,” the mayor said.

“With the $2 million repayment, Cooke is in compliance with the terms and conditions of its loan,” said Mel Rusinak, a representative for Nova Scotia Business Inc.

The money paid back April 8 was part of $25 million in funding announced for the company by the government in 2012. Of that total, $9 million was a forgivable loan and $4 million was tied to the number of jobs created, research development and commercialization of innovation in the aquaculture industry.

The company only accessed $18 million of the funding.

Cooke had planned to create a fish processing plant in Shelburne County, which it said would have created 320 jobs, in addition to a hatchery in Digby and a feed mill in Truro.

Parts of the commitment was realized, including the feed mill in Truro.

In 2012, Cooke Aquaculture had announced it would invest $150 million on operations in Shelburne County.

Nell Halse, spokesperson for Cooke Aquaculture, said in a phone interview one of the main reasons the fish plant in Shelburne did not happen was because of a regulatory review the province conducted and the hold on any new aquaculture sites during the review.

The Nova Scotia government issued a moratorium on any new fish farm sites in May 2013 while the conducting the review. The Doelle Lahey report issued recommendations in December 2014. New aquaculture legislation was passed in October 2015.

Cooke approached the government to extend the timeline of the terms, but the request was refused, said Halse.

Town of Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatall would like to see the money Cooke has paid back to the province come back to the area.

“When (Cooke) received the money, it could have meant a large number of jobs in a community desperate for the opportunity to have jobs,” she said.

Town representatives have not heard back from the province about the request to earmark the cash for economic development in Shelburne County.

“We can always find opportunities that will benefit the economy of the area,” the mayor said.

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