Fish farm tells small P.E.I. community of Victoria it has to expand its premises in order to survive

'I think Victoria has a good reputation for wanting to be involved in how the community gets developed,' says Mayor Martin Ruben.  (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News - image credit)
'I think Victoria has a good reputation for wanting to be involved in how the community gets developed,' says Mayor Martin Ruben. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News - image credit)

A fish farm's plans to expand in Victoria, P.E.I., are being met with some questions from people who live in the area.

Amar Seafood P.E.I. bought the former Halibut P.E.I. building back in 2022. The company hatches and grows juvenile wolffish and halibut there, but says the current facility is too small to be financially successful.

"The size of the building doesn't allow us to grow enough fish. That's our problem," said Scott Travers, the CEO.

"If we can't do that, we really can't be viable in our existing operations. So to exist here in Victoria, we've got to be able to build."

Amar Seafood recently bought land across the road from its current facility, just northwest of Victoria Provincial Park on the causeway that leads to the heart of the village.

The plan is to build a 70,000-square-foot grow-out centre that will raise the juvenile fish until they reach market size. The company is also proposing an interpretive centre with touch tanks to educate people about the process.

Little-known wolffish species, seen in this file photo from 2017, was examined as part of the study into Saint John's ocean ecosystem.
Little-known wolffish species, seen in this file photo from 2017, was examined as part of the study into Saint John's ocean ecosystem.

'If we can't expand, we can't make ends meet,' says Scott Travers, the CEO of Amar Seafood P.E.I., which farms wolffish like this one. 'Our costs are higher than our revenue because we're just not able to grow enough.' (Andrew J. Martinez)

"The whole mission is to produce these two highly sought-after fish for the North American market," Travers said. "We have everything that can make it work."

'There are some concerns'

But in order to build, the land needs to be rezoned. A public meeting was held on Tuesday evening to give people in the Rural Municipality of Victoria a chance to learn more about the project and ask questions.

And some of them are not on board.

"There are some concerns about traffic there, about the environment, about the operations themselves, smell — all these things," said Mayor Martin Ruben.

"We heard a lot of concerns, but we also heard a lot of people who believe that the project is something that they would like to see go ahead."

Travers said he understands the concerns, and is trying to alleviate them. For example, he said an architect is working to create a building that will have minimal impact on the view. And he estimated that once the facility is in full production, there will be only about four extra tractor-trailer loads leaving per week.

"It should attract a lot of visitors, if that's what the town wants — and those visitors translate into, 'Hey, I want to try this wolffish. Where can I try it?'

"The restaurants in town hopefully would be serving our product."

Planning meeting Thursday

Ruben said the municipality's planning board will be meeting with Amar Seafood on Thursday to gather more information and talk about the residents' concerns. The board will then deliberate before making its recommendations to councillors, who will eventually vote on the expansion plan.

At the end of the day, if they don't want to see development, that's their issue. — Scott Travers of Amar Seafood

"I'm hoping that residents will have confidence in the process ... that it is in the public interest at the end of the day, whatever decision we make," said Ruben.

Amar Seafood P.E.I. is hoping to build a 70, 000 square-foot grow-out centre near its current facility in Victoria. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC News)

As for Travers, he's hoping the expansion goes through. Otherwise, it will be back to the drawing board to find a new location.

"I see a real balance of socioeconomic issues. At the end of the day, if they don't want to see development, that's their issue," he said.