Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia to unveil new aquaculture regulations Monday

Increasing from two pages to 60, Nova Scotia's regulations are about to get a lot tougher for fish farm and shellfish industries.

Changes are an attempt to 'restore public confidence' after recent fish health scares

Shellfish scientist Sarah Stewart-Clark is on the province's new science advisory panel for aquaculture. (CBC)

Nova Scotia will unveil much tougher rules Monday to oversee the aquaculture industry in a bid to "restore public confidence." 

Regulations governing the industry will go from two pages to 60 by the start of the week, the province's minister of fisheries and aquaculture said.

"We are going to a more firm regulatory process. We are going to be doing more testing," Minister Keith Colwell told CBC after a tour Friday of the department's new laboratory in Truro, N.S.

"We are going to be doing more work around fish health disease," he said.

The province spent $620,000 upgrading the lab to meet bio security and national standards.

"We're equipped to handle increased testing requirements," provincial fish veterinarian Roland Cusack said.

"We'll need more capacity for that and similarly, for the clinical work the farmers may require."

Moratorium on new salmon farms remains 

Aquaculture has an image problem in Nova Scotia, fuelled by skepticism of the suitability of salmon farm sites — and secrecy around salmon disease outbreaks.

Protesters in 2013 said the province should not have approved salmon farms in St. Marys Bay, N.S. (CBC)

To quell public concern, the province put a moratorium on new salmon farms in 2013.

The province wants to lift that ban to create jobs in coastal communities, but first needs to convince the public.

"We want to restore public confidence in our department," Colwell said. "In the past, we didn't have the tools to work with: either at the lab or [in] the regulations."

The new regulations will give the provincial government more enforcement powers at aquaculture sites, Colwell said.

Unbiased advice coming from new scientist panel

Nova Scotia has created a five member advisory panel of scientists as part of its aquaculture reset, including Dalhousie University molecular biologist Sarah Stewart-Clark.

Fresh Atlantic salmon steaks and fillets are displayed for sale at Eastern Market in Washington, DC, August 6, 2013. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

"We are researching things to find out information [and] to find out what is really happening," said Stewart-Clark, a shellfish expert who works from Dalhousie's agricultural campus in Truro.

"Because we don't have ties to the government or to industry or to any group, we have the academic freedom to say whatever it is we have found in an unbiased way."

Other members include:

  • David Gray, chairman of Dalhousie's agricultural faculty
  • Larry Hammell, chairman of the animal health department at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown, P.E.I
  • Bruce Hatcher, chairman of Marine Ecosystem Research at Cape Breton University
  • Jay Parsons, director of the aquaculture science branch at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Ottawa, Ont.

"I'm very excited that [Colwell's] pulled together this group of scientists to help guide the industry," Stewart-Clark said.

The exact terms of reference have not been finalized, nor has the length of the assignment.

"I hope the public can be confident... in the science that our minister is making decisions with," Stewart-Clark said.

Nova Scotia was challenged in the Ivany Report on the economy to double seafood exports, and that cannot happen without a boost in aquaculture, she said.

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