The Honourable Denis Lebel, Minister of State for Canada Economic Development, has announced the awarding of two contributions totalling C$4,065,548 to the Société de développement de l'industrie maricole Inc. (SODIM). The organisation will use this assistance to create an investment fund for Quebec marine aquaculture companies and to finance the development of innovative packaging for live shellfish.
Founded in 1998, SODIM is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the startup and development of profitable and competitive marine aquaculture enterprises and to fostering the growth of this economic sector in the Gaspésie, Íles-de-la-Madeleine, Bas-Saint-Laurent and Côte-Nord regions. The organisation provides financial assistance and consulting services for the establishment, diversification and expansion of these firms, encourages the transfer of technological knowledge and conducts research and development in collaboration with the major aquaculture research centres.
Aqua-Mer investment fund
SODIM has therefore been granted $4,000,000 in repayable funding through the Community Diversification programme to set up an investment fund to finance various marine aquaculture development projects in Quebec's maritime regions. The Aqua-Mer fund will provide considerable leverage by generating overall $11 million in overall investments among the targeted firms. According to SODIM, this initiative should result in the creation of some 20 new enterprises by the year 2017 while strengthening and fostering the growth of existing companies in the sector.
The Minister of State said: "The fishing industry is in the throes of a major transformation that requires new ways of doing things. Saltwater aquaculture is a sector of activity to be exploited and an avenue to secure the industry's future. By contributing to the establishment of the Société de développement de l'industrie maricole's Aqua-Mer fund, Canada Economic Development is also supporting the startup, growth and long-term viability of enterprises in the sector."
A second non-repayable contribution of $65,548, granted through the Business and Regional Growth program, will serve for the conducting of research and development on new innovative packaging for the commercialization of live shellfish. Thanks to this assistance, SODIM, in collaboration with its partners, will be able to develop new expertise that is sure to enable enterprises to bolster their sales and break into new markets.
Minister Lebel concluded: "Aquaculture will help diversify and sustain Quebec coastal communities affected by the reduction in fishing activities. That is why Canada Economic Development sees this niche as a priority for the region's economic growth. The directors of SODIM have clearly understood that innovation is the way of the future. This research and development project will make it possible to increase product life and thereby open up new markets, which is an extremely promising prospect."
Aquaculture is an important sector in terms of both economic activity and employment, assuring jobs to about 6,000 Canadians. In Quebec, there are some 20 companies, together employing 130 people, operating in the sector.