The town of Lewisporte has been chosen as the site of Memorial University's first regional Marine Institute centre, which will be built with the help of provincial and federal government funds.
Federal and provincial ministers gathered in Lewisporte for the announcement, including Innovation, Trade and Rural Development Minister Susan Sullivan. She said the funding announcement was part of an economic development plan that included marine resources.
"It's time to look back to the ocean for new ways to sustain ourselves in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and this is one aspect of it," she said.
The $470,000 in funding comes in the form of $307,812 from the federal Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency's Innovative Communities Fund and $169,271 from Newfoundland and Labrador's Regional/Sectoral Diversification Fund.
The new Marine Institute builds on the existing marine facilities of the town, said Lewisporte MHA Wade Verge in a statement. The town currently has a port for the Canadian Coast Guard, a full-service recreational marina, and an aquaculture industry, as well as supply capabilities for northern shipping, he said, noting there are further plans for developing ocean-based industry.
"Our vision for future economic growth in the Lewisporte area includes a greater emphasis on the marine sector," said Verge. "It is exciting to officially welcome the Marine Institute to Lewisporte to begin what I believe will be a long-term mutually-beneficial partnership."
Peter Penashue, the federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Regional Minister for Newfoundland and Labrador, said in addition to economic growth the new facility will also provide increased education opportunities for the area.
"The establishment of this facility will grow the fisheries and marine sectors, strengthen community infrastructure and improve economic development capacity in Lewisporte and in communities throughout this region," he said.
During his visit to Lewisporte, Penashue also commented on the planned closure of the Newfoundland Search and Rescue Subcentre, noting it would not impact the Coast Guard operating in Lewisporte.
"We've said, from a government point of view, the Coast Guard as it is will remain untouched, will remain as it is," he said.
As for earlier media reports that search and rescue services faced privatization, Penashue said the focus remains on providing the best possible service for Newfoundland and Labrador, and that a planned review will include getting public input. "Obviously, there will be extensive consultations," he said.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Search and Rescue station is still set to close next year, with Penashue noting both Newfoundland and Quebec will be consolidated at the same time, contrary to reports the Quebec offices would remain open an extra year.