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Aquaculture guidelines under change

by Stephanie Taylor

A new government report recommends changes to the way the aquaculture industry operates in Nova Scotia.  Photo: [Pacific Northwest Stream Survey Collection]
A new government report recommends changes to the way the aquaculture industry operates in Nova Scotia. Photo: [Pacific Northwest Stream Survey Collection]

K'JIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) - An independent review panel is calling for an overhaul of Nova Scotia’s aquaculture regulations. 

The two-person panel led by Dalhousie law professors Meinhard Doelle and William Lahey, was appointed by the province last April. 

They recently released a draft version of the review that recommends sweeping changes be made to the current regulatory system, including more transparency between the aquaculture industry and surrounding communities. 

“Our intention is to recommend a regulatory framework that will give people in coastal communities the opportunity to feel fully engaged and participate in decision- making of what does and does not happen in their communities,” said Lahey in a recent interview. 

He describes that many people feel a “lack of confidence in the regulatory system,”and believes that communities, the province and and industry leaders alike will benefit from an open-book policy. 

Lahey sees that “the industry suffers from what we call a lack of social license, meaning it might have approval from the government to do what it does, but it doesn’t have support from the community.”

“The currently regulatory framework is highly discretionary," he says.Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, oftentimes resulting in inconsistencies between regulations. 

Stricter guidelines on licensing and inspection procedures, as well as the introduction of a classification system for salmon-based aquaculture to determine what regions are suitable to farm, are only a few of recommendations listed in the report. 

The environment is the review’s top priority. Lahey believes more emphasis should also be placed on the well-being aquatic life, as healthy fish are an indication that aquaculture is in harmony with the natural habitat. 

Increasing regulatory capacity will allow for Nova Scotia to have a world-class aquaculture and fisheries industry, he says.

“We’re in a different world in terms of what the market expects, whether that’s individual consumers or big corporate purchasers … People are demanding a product that has more sustainability built into it.”

In recent years provincial governments in both British Columbia and Newfoundland underwent regulatory changes. 

Lahey says stricter regulations will give producers a competitive advantage because it will allow them to brand themselves as sustainable and responsible. 

The development of a new regulatory framework requires a large amount of public participation, Lahey says. 

The draft review, will be presented for discussion at several community meetings around the province starting later this month. 

“We’re looking forward to what we learn,” Lahey says.

The meeting in Halifax will take place July 29 at the Lord Nelson Hotel. 

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