Nova Scotia has a new strategy for aquaculture development.
The strategy identifies and builds on four key pillars: farming responsibly, aquaculture engagement, regulatory safeguards, and jobs and the economy.
Over the years, the government has heard many opinions on aquaculture development. Government officials say the strategy is a balanced response.
While not mentioned specifically in the strategy, officials also say the province will be conducting a review of the feasibility of closed containment in Nova Scotia, something groups opposed to large open water fish pens have been calling for.
"Our strategy demonstrates our commitment to ensure aquaculture development is done in a way that protects the environment and traditional fisheries," said Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Sterling Belliveau. "There is a bright future for aquaculture in Nova Scotia and this strategy will guide us."
The province's aquaculture industry is one of the most diverse in the world, including many different species of finfish and shellfish, as well as Irish moss and other sea plants. It boasts the largest land-based production facility in the world and every county has a link to the industry.
Aquaculture is also a significant contributor to the rural and coastal community economies, worth about $50 million annually, creating about 750 direct and more than 1,000 indirect jobs.
Despite that, the industry has been a hot button issue amongst communities. Some believe large open water fish farms are polluting local harbours and shorelines for little benefit.
Brett Loney, a spokesperson for the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, said the strategy addresses many concerns and provides a direction for the future of the industry.
Among other things Loney said the strategy dealt with some legitimate environmental and management issues “that needed to be addressed.”
Industry representatives commended the government on the new document.
"The Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia is very pleased with the new aquaculture strategy," said Bruce Hancock, executive director of the association. "Our members are proud of their responsible farming and they welcome the province's efforts to raise the bar on operating standards. We are confident we can meet this challenge.”