In August, the government of Nova Scotia held consultations with the public regarding potential expansion of aquaculture operations in Pictou County, on the province’s northern shore. The Atlantic Canadian province is already home to many aquaculture operations.
“The aquaculture sector contributes over $50 million every year to the Nova Scotia economy already,” says Bruce Hancock, Director of Aquaculture for the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture. “And those are in rural areas where the development dollars are needed the most. It's a sector that has a lot of potential for growth.”
The consultations are primarily in regards to potential expansion of marine-based, bottom-cultivated oyster aquaculture operations in the area. While the public was given the opportunity to voice opinions on the operations and aquaculture in general, the department was looking for information and potential concerns regarding the specific sites in question.
“What we’re looking for is concrete objections to the proposed activity,” says Hancock. “What would factor in more heavily for us is if there’s something in particular that they bring to the department’s attention that would mean there would be a real issue.”
While the purpose of the consultations was to discover specific, factual issues relating to the proposed expansions, Hancock says that such consultations are an important tool to improve public acceptance of aquaculture operations. As marine based aquaculture is seen by many as a new and unknown commodity which uses a shared resource, finding acceptance for new operations can be challenging.
“The experience I've seen around the province is that in areas where aquaculture has been established for a period of time it is well accepted and becomes part of the fabric of that community. Where the rub really takes place is in proposed new development. There is an education piece that is required from the operators’ perspective to try to get community support for the operations.”
Prior to the public consultation, the province held consultations with a variety of partners on the federal and provincial levels. Aquaculture operations are a shared jurisdiction between the provincial and federal governments, so the province has already liaised with branches of the federal government such as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada, Environment Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. “Those are all opinions we want to get before the minister makes his decision,” says Hancock.
The proposed new sites are going to be among the last applications to be processed under the province’s current regulatory regime. Nova Scotia has undergone an extensive regulatory review and a draft of that review was released in July. The final report on the review will be released in September.
“I expect to see changes in how we handle new lease applications in the future,” says Hancock. “There's a lot of opportunity here and the hope is that this regulatory review and the recommendations they provide will give us the vehicle for moving the thing forward in a sustainable and responsible manner.”
— Matt Jones