The Canadian aquaculture industry is worth $1 billion a year.
It creates jobs, it takes pressure off wild fish stocks and it can help revitalize remote, rural and coastal communities.
Supporting the responsible growth of the aquaculture industry is an obvious choice for anyone concerned about economic development.
The Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans did an extensive study of Canadian aquaculture called An Ocean of Opportunities: Aquaculture in Canada. We released it last year but we’re re-releasing it now in the expectation that the new government will study our report and act on its recommendations.
Chief among them, is the need for a comprehensive federal aquaculture act.
At the moment, a confounding array of federal and provincial regulations make it difficult for aquaculture operators to get into the business. Rules differ from province to province, and the process needed to get the appropriate permissions to start a venture is torturous.
Implementing a federal aquaculture act — in conjunction with other strategies the committee recommends — would spur investment by removing these barriers, which would create jobs and pour more money into the economy.
The committee supports doubling the Canadian aquaculture production in the next decade, which would have a positive annual effect on the country’s gross domestic product of about $2.5 billion.
That growth, however, must come responsibly.
That’s why we support continued research into the effect of aquaculture on the environment — Canadian research is already internationally renowned for its quality — as well as vigorous enforcement of operators’ licence conditions.
To preserve Canadians’ confidence in the industry, we also recommend starting a central database that’s publically accessible, so anyone can look up the terms of aquaculture operators’ licences — and see if they are complying.
The title of the report says it all: there is an ocean of opportunities for aquaculture development in Canada. But only if the government is willing to act.
Senator Fabian Manning is chair of the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. Senator Elizabeth Hubley is the deputy chair.