Victoria, P.E.I., fish farm scales back expansion plans after residents voice concerns

After consulting with residents of the seaside community of Victoria, P.E.I., aquaculture company Amar Seafood has reduced the proposed expansion of its fish farm operation in the rural municipality, for now.

Amar's Prince Edward Island CEO Scott Travers said the farm, which hatches and grows wolffish and halibut, will need to produce an additional 600 tonnes of fish to be economically viable.

The company, which is headquartered in Norway, had initially submitted a rezoning request that would see the plant grow to three times its current size, and had purchased 50 acres of land — 40 of which Travers said is usable — for the expansion.

Monday night at Victoria's municipal council meeting, Amar rescinded its application and reduced the rezoning request from 40 acres to 15.

PEI Halibut developed its own process to grow halibut in large fibreglass holding tanks fed by geothermal salt-water wells.
Norwegian aquaculture company Amar Seafood bought the former Halibut P.E.I. building back in 2022. (CBC)

"We certainly heard all the concerns from the citizens, and I get that," Travers told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier on Tuesday.

"We've addressed those concerns, but to make it more appealing to the community and less of a sticker shock, if you will, we resubmitted for 15 acres to be rezoned as light industrial."

Travers said he considers this to be "phase one" of the expansion, and the plan is to evaluate growth beyond 15 acres eventually.

"This could be years down the road, but ... we'd be able to demonstrate our success, that it's worked for the community, and that there's been a balance between light industrial and maintaining community and quality of life."

'A tourist disaster'

Victoria resident Henry Dunsmore opposes the expansion.

He said some people in the community believe the idea of additional production at Amar will be beneficial.

The catch, however, is where the proposed expansion would be located.

Some residents are concerned the company's full expansion would allow it to span the kilometre-long causeway that leads into Victoria. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC)
Some residents are concerned the company's full expansion would allow it to span the kilometre-long causeway that leads into Victoria. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC)

"It was revealed that the plan was to actually take all 50 or 40-odd usable acres and put in a row of buildings that would essentially span the length of the causeway road, which is basically a kilometre long. And that's just unacceptable," Dunsmore said.

"It blocks view, it becomes a corridor to our village. It's a tourist disaster, as far as we're concerned."

Dunsmore said the additional jobs and tax revenue from Amar's expansion could bring would be "a pittance" in comparison to Victoria's overall tax base.

Travers said if Amar is unable to expand to the level of production it needs, it will not be able to cover its costs.

He said the Norwegian company has put $9 million into the facility since May 2022 when it bought the former Halibut P.E.I. building.

"If we can't expand [operations] in the order of 600 tonnes a year, I'm directed by my board to pursue other options, likely off-Island," Travers said. "I'd hate to see that, I think this is a great opportunity if we address everything in a wise manner."