Nova Scotia Fisheries Minister Keith Colwell released new regulations for aquaculture in Lunenburg Monday to provide "a more accountable and responsible approach to aquaculture" that includes more public input.
He said the government is prepared to lift a moratorium on new fish farms in 2016. He said the new rules will restore confidence in the industry.
"We can get this right," he told an audience of aquaculture supporters and critics.
Colwell said a quasi-judicial aquaculture review board will be appointed in the new year and it will have final approval on applications for sites.
J.P. Deveau of Acadian Seaplants said the change is good for Nova Scotia's economy.
"With few exceptions, Nova Scotia is not a major player in agriculture. But Nova Scotia does have an ocean — Ontario and Alberta don't have one," he said.
The new regulations enhance that natural advantage, he said.
"Industry needs clarity in order to invest the time and energy to develop this industry. These regulations do just that," said Deveau
Murray Hill of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association said the industry has been looking for clear rules so the moratorium can be lifted.
He wants to look over the new regulations in detail before commenting on any possible shortcomings, he said.
Moratorium imposed in 2013
After controversy in coastal communities over salmon farms, Nova Scotia imposed a moratorium on new fin fish and shellfish sites in May 2013.
The new rules offer more public input on new sites.
The province will seek applications for future sites and look at five factors: the potential benefits to the community and province, a company's previous record, its ability to deliver, the concentration of sites in an area, and the suitability of the project.
If the minister approves an application, the file will then go to a newly-created aquaculture review board, which must hold a public meeting before it approves or rejects a site.
"I expect they will accept some and reject others. We are taking the politics out of this totally," Colwell said.
The existing 12 fin fish farms in the province now have 12 months to file a fish management plan that meets environmental monitoring standards.
The rules will require more testing and monitoring on fish farms and make the results public.
The government says the aquaculture industry is worth $60 million annually in Nova Scotia.