"People who live in coastal communities want good jobs, but not at any cost," said Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Sterling Belliveau.
"This government recognises that the aquaculture industry is an important part of rural communities. By developing strong regulations and enforcement we will help the industry grow in a way that balances economic development and environmental protection."
The work will be led by Dalhousie University law professors and environmental law experts Meinhard Doelle and William Lahey. They will be advised by an advisory committee chosen to represent stakeholders and community interests including the Mi'kmaq, Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Salmon Association, Nova Scotia Fisheries Sector Council, Ecology Action Centre and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities.
"We look forward to working with the advisory committee, key stakeholders, scientific experts, and members of the public to develop a regulatory framework for aquaculture that best serves the long-term social, environmental and economic interests of the province," said Mr Doelle.
Mr Doelle and Mr Lahey, assisted by the advisory committee and a scientific advisory committee to be struck later, will consider a full range of impacts, benefits and risks that should be addressed through regulation.
They will use a multi-phased process of public and stakeholder consultation, the first phase of which will begin this summer.
"Our members are committed to farming responsibly in Nova Scotia," said Bruce Hancock, executive director of the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia. "We believe that clearly written regulations are an important part of sustainable expansion of aquaculture in Nova Scotia and will help build public confidence in our industry."
It is anticipated the department will receive recommendations to develop regulations by the end of 2014.
"From our vantage point, aquaculture regulations are failing to protect Nova Scotian communities and the environment and thus we welcome a comprehensive review of the regulatory system and options going forward," said Ecology Action Centre policy director Mark Butler. "There are sustainable opportunities in aquaculture, but they must not come at the expense of the ecosystem or other marine industries."
The development of regulations for the aquaculture industry was part of the action plan from the province's first aquaculture strategy, released in May 2012. The aquaculture industry generates about C$50 million annually.
"Investment in aquaculture can provide meaningful work that will sustain rural communities and maintain their quality of life. It could mean the difference for young people and families who want to remain and thrive in rural and coastal Nova Scotia," said Mr Belliveau.