'They don't talk': Committee member frustrated with Cooke Aquaculture's silence

'They don't talk': Committee member frustrated with Cooke Aquaculture's silence

A member of Cooke Aquaculture's community liaison committee in Shelburne County, N.S., says the company needs to do a better job communicating with the public.

The committee is set up by the company to act as a conduit between itself and the community at large. The idea is it can pass along information from the company or it can be a way for the public to get questions and comments to the company.

David Levy has been a member of the group since it was formed more than four years ago. Levy said they used to meet more often, but lately there hasn't been much happening.

"Normally, it's a panacea to calm the community," said Levy, who is also deputy warden of the Municipality of the District of Shelburne.

More communication needed

He worries a lack of communication from the company is problematic on issues such as the recent fish escapes and deaths at a site in Shelburne Harbour.

"It's a shame," said Levy.

"I think, personally, we should be making safe fish farming one of the great economic drivers of Nova Scotia."

In his role as an elected official, Levy sees fish farming as a way to grow the economy, create jobs and help food supplies.

Cooke spokesperson Nell Halse acknowledge communication can always improve, but she said there haven't been many questions from the public in recent years. Hallse said she and company employees at sites are ready and willing to answer questions.

"I think generally people felt comfortable with the knowledge they had and they knew where to go if they had questions," she said.

Company is changing its focus

Halse said the company in years past put a lot of effort into marketing and promotion campaigns, but when a proposed processing plant in Shelburne that would have created hundreds of jobs didn't materialize, the company decided to take a step back.

"We just needed to quietly go about our business," she said.

Hallse said the company has since focused its efforts on engaging directly with specific communities. 

'They don't talk at all'

The company is instead leaving the promotion side of things to industry associations, she said, while also re-examining the role of the community liaison committee in Shelburne in hopes of getting people more engaged.

Levy said he thinks the company needs to be more vocal with the community on a regular basis.

"They should be talking about the advances in food science, they should be talking about the advances in non-use of antibiotics," he said. "But they don't talk at all."