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Fish Farming Offers Rural Regeneration

by Ellen Hardy
25 March 2008, at 12:00am

ONTARIO - Northern region plans to expand aquaculture are still being thwarted by Government policies, say local supporters and interested businesses.

They say the region could benefit hugely from increased fish faming activities and the sector could help revive struggling rural and single-industry towns, aquaculture industry insiders claim.

According to Ontario's Chronicle and Journal, the Northern Ontario Aquaculture Association says there is “excellent potential” for slow, carefully planned expansion of the industry in the North.

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"Not only are we producing a product that is naturally rich in Omega-3 essential fatty acids, we are making significant economic contributions to Ontario‘s economy."
Karen Tracey, NOAA program co-ordinator

Clear Direction

NOAA program co-ordinator Karen Tracey says that the aquaculture industry has been requesting “clear and concise” government policy on cage culture over the past two decades.

“For the cage culture industry to thrive and maintain its economic viability, regulatory agencies will need to make a strategic commitment to address institutional barriers and enable its future growth,” she said.

While the Ministry of Natural Resources is “working on” harmonising guidelines for aquaculture licences, Tracey said, the process is ate least a year behind schedule. Most cage culture operations are located in Lake Huron with its ideal water conditions, existing infrastructure, proximity to markets and established processing plants.

Most operations started with private money due to a lack of government support, she said, adding that “when it comes to agricultural funds for farming, aquaculture is not considered farming.”

“It‘s one of the many legislative mysteries that the industry has faced since conception,” she said.

While there is potential for fish farming in Northwestern Ontario, Tracey said that she would not encourage any entrepreneurs to look at fish farming in the area until policy has been established by the regulatory agencies.

$Multi-Million Economics

An NOAA-commissioned study last spring on the economic impacts of the cage culture industry in Ontario, found that it generates almost $51 million in annual sales and supports 229 full-time jobs. It also deduced that aquaculture industry helps to diversify local economies, provide stable employment and bring valuable economic benefits to rural communities across Ontario.

“Not only are we producing a product that is naturally rich in Omega-3 essential fatty acids, we are making significant economic contributions to Ontario‘s economy,” Tracey said.

Association president Mike Meeker said fish farm operators are wholeheartedly committed to taking the lead in science-based research and development initiatives.

“We want to ensure environmental responsibility for today and continued accountability for the future of our industry. Operators are passionate about seeing the industry succeed, and believe the industry has excellent potential for slow, carefully planned expansion,” he said Meeker.

View the Chronicle and Journal story by clicking here.

Ellen Hardy