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Chilean Tours Urges MLA To Push for Domestic Industry

NOVA SCOTIA - Southwestern Nova Scotia has to greatly expand its fish-farming operations, says Liberal fisheries critic Junior Theriault who has just returned from a tour of several aquaculture operations in Chile.

The Digby-Annapolis MLA is indignant that the South American country is selling Canada a hundred thousand tonnes annually of salmon, rainbow trout and Arctic char, says a report on his visit in the Sou'Wester.

“It’s a Third World country feeding us here in Canada,” exclaims Theriault, “and they’re using our technology!”

Theriault was on a week-long fact-finding trip organized by fisheries ministers in the Atlantic Provinces as well as federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn. He is still surprised at the size and scope of Chilean aquaculture, an industry that the country only began two decades ago.

“I knew it was big,” he said, but he was still unprepared to find that Chile is so successful it is talking about doubling production over the next 15 years.

Already 25 per cent of the country’s gross national product comes from fish.

“They’ve got industrial parks as big as Burnside just for fish businesses. They had one plant with 400 people to a shift, 16 hours a day, six days a week.”

There are 52,000 people working directly in aquaculture, and the industry there is moving into growing shellfish, especially mussels. Chile has even turned neighboring Argentina, a nation of beef ranchers, into a nation of fish eaters, said Theriault. But not all of the aquaculture farms in Chile are run by Chileans.

International Interests

Glen Cooke of Grand Manan was also on the trip to Chile. His company is one of Atlantic Canada’s major players in aquaculture, but he also has an operation in Chile with eight sites each larger than its Rattling Beach farm outside Digby.

“He’s got 100 people for the eight sites. They make about $200 a week, which is big money down there,” Theriault said. “The normal wage is $100 to $125 a week, and that’s as good as $400 here.” The MLA says there is too much public opposition in Nova Scotia to growth of the fish-farming industry. In Port Mouton, for example, people don’t want their view cluttered by more fish pens. “The health professions are saying, ‘Eat fish’. We could grow fish here. Cooke says we can compete if this province would promote aquaculture. New Brunswick is at its limit. If you get too many farms, you can get disease. You have to spread out," said Theriault.

View the Sou'Wester story by clicking here.

Ellen Hardy

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