A New York–based lobster company's Grand Manan expansion plans are on hold while the New Brunswick and Canadian governments review a potential violation of the company's lease of provincial property
Aqua Best buys lobsters from Grand Manan fishermen and operates a tank-house, a land-based lobster storage facility, on the island.
Documents shared with CBC show the company also leases inter-tidal land for a lobster holding pound, essentially a pen on the sea floor in the zone between the low and high tide area, in Woodward's Cove.
Photos show the pound area was extensively filled in starting in the fall of 2018 with heavy rock to create a pad for the expansion.
A couple of photos found on Facebook show New Brunswick Southwest MP, John Williamson standing on the filled in area in July of 2019.
Williamson tagged the photos: "Looking at Aqua Best's expansion plans on Grand Manan."
Williamson could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Frank Longstaff owns an adjacent property in the cove.
He said the company is preparing to build on provincial government land it leases under very specific conditions.
"The lobster pound is governed by a lease the company took out with the province," said Longstaff. "And one of the terms of the lease is that it is to be used as a lobster pound solely. And so to fill it in is a breach of that term, certainly to build something on it is a breach of that term."
Longstaff said he's not sure how the company can even be issued a building permit for the site because it doesn't have title to the land.
Reached by CBC, Jimmy Lam, Aqua Best's manager of Canadian Operations said he had no comment and is waiting for word from the federal and provincial governments before determining if the work can proceed.
Grand Manan Mayor Dennis Greene said the issue does not directly involve the village and is before the two other levels of government.
"There's quite a few jobs that's involved there and they have great plans for the future and we'd like to see it proceed," said Greene. "But, again, it's a provincial and federal matter."
Longstaff said he understands the importance of the lobster industry to the island's economy.
But he's concerned that if the company is allowed to go ahead with expansion of the tank house after constructing the pad on land it doesn't own it would set a dangerous precedent for other coastal areas in the province.
He says neighbours were not notified about plans for construction on the site and there have been no public notices about destruction of fish habitat in the inter-tidal zone.
in a brief statement a spokesperson for New Brunswick's Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries confirmed a stop work order was issued after the infill was discovered in the Aqua Best case. The statement said the department is working with "federal counterparts" on the file.
A spokesperson said the Department of Fisheries and Oceans could not immediately comment on the case Tuesday
Andrea Anderson Mason, elected MLA for Fundy the Isles in 2018, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.