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Canadian Minister Defends Aquaculture Assessments

CANADA - The Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture is working in collaboration with all levels of government and community stakeholders to identify and assess viable aquaculture sites across the province, including a potential new site in Port Mouton.

Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Ron Chisholm.

In a Sept. 5 letter to the editor in the Halifax Herald, concern was expressed about aquaculture in Port Mouton Bay. Ron Chisholm, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, responded by claiming the opportunity to explain the thorough process his department uses to assess potential new aquaculture sites.

According to him: "each application comes to the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and goes through a comprehensive review process. An environmental assessment is conducted by highly qualified federal scientists at Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The application must pass their scrutiny before coming forward to me.

"The voice of the community is also heard and factored into the process. We are aware of the concerns of the Friends of Port Mouton and we are working with them to ensure their issues are reviewed through our rigorous process.

"When a licence is granted, our provincial staff use sound science to conduct regular environmental monitoring. They collect information about sediments, water quality, temperature and currents. They also take underwater videos of sediment on the site's floor. We continue to share these findings with the community in an open and timely manner."

Mr Chrisholm went on to point out that the department's aquaculture environmental monitoring program has been in place since 2003. In 2007, it received the Nova Scotia Premier's Award for Excellence and continues to be highly regarded by the aquaculture community. "We regularly monitor all aquaculture sites in the province as part of our efforts to ensure that the practice is conducted in an environmentally responsible manner", he said.

There are more than 300 aquaculture sites throughout the province. This summer, licences were granted to new sites in Shelburne and Sober Island near Sheet Harbour through the effective process put in place by the department.

"Our goal is to have other sites in operation in the near future, provided they meet our stringent requirements. My department will continue to grant aquaculture licences when -- and only when -- all the necessary information is collected and thoroughly analyzed."

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, "Aquaculture is an important production sector, currently providing nearly 50 per cent of the global aquatic food (food fishery)." This report goes on to say that, "Expanding aquaculture production is the only way to meet future global demand for seafood."

Aquaculture has clear potential for sustainable economic growth in Nova Scotia. "We will continue to expand and endorse this industry to further enrich the province's economic and social prosperity", he says.