Port Anson Mayor Shawn Burton says Sunrise Mussels has been operating near his community for a number of years. Their operation near the causeway just outside Port Anson has been a sight for visitors entering town since its opening.
It’s also been a troublesome sight for many locals.
“Because of their location, it makes it hard for people who want to get by there in boat,” said Burton.
When locals try to pass the area of the farm, Burton claims lines and ropes have hindered their progress, causing frustrating conditions for most.
So when word came that Sunrise Mussels wanted to expand its operation further up the bay, it immediately became a source of concern.
The company has applied to Transport Canada for an expansion that Burton claims will greatly affect life for many residents of Port Anson.
“A lot of people came to us and asked what it would mean for the town, because, essentially they want to take over the bay,” said Burton. “Our bay is very narrow, which means there’s not a lot of space to work with. We fear that the expansion would interfere with people who want to use the bay for boating and other things.”
In addition, Burton says he’s of the understanding that the new operation will put a stop to any potential housing expansion in the community because of regulations concerning how close a new building can be to the farm.
He said it’s the town’s understanding that a house can’t be built within 500 metres of the farm.
“So that means pretty much no new house can be built in Port Anson, because they would be too close to the farm.”
Burton estimates the bay to be around 800 metres wide, which doesn’t leave much wiggle room, he says, for new development.
“We have a number of people who own waterfront property right now, and they’re trying to sell it,” he said. “That property would be worthless overnight if this application is approved.”
Burton says council has met with the company to discuss its concerns, however there a resolution hasn’t been reached. Council feels the company is proceeding despite the issues raised.
Job Halfyard, president and CEO of Sunrise Mussels, says his company is just trying to make life better for residents in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We’re doing what we can to provide jobs and a livelihood for people in rural Newfoundland and we’re getting push back for it,” said Halfyard.
Last year, Sunrise Mussels provided 30 full- and part-time jobs for people from the region, something for which Halfyard says the company should be commended, not criticized.
“As for these regulations and all that, that’s for the government to decide. I don’t decide that,” he said. “We want to do what’s best for our company, for our workers and for the towns.”
Halfyard said they aren’t interested in expanding if it’s at the expense of the town and would cause detrimental effects to residents.
“I have no idea what’s going to come out of it because one person says one thing and another person says something else,” he said. “We just have to wait for the decision to come back to see what it will be.”
As for Burton, he says the Town of Port Anson doesn’t receive any taxes or benefits from Sunrise Mussels, but Halfyard says that’s not the case. He said the company has a residence in the town, on which it pays taxes.
Halfyard says the company has also employed people from Port Anson and other nearby towns. At its peak, Sunrise Mussels employs 15 people.
No one knows when Transport Canada will respond to the application, or what the decision will be, but both Burton and Halfyard say they’re anxiously awaiting the outcome.