Could aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try save ru­ral New­found­land?

Gov­ern­ment ex­pect­ing to dou­ble the num­ber of em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties within the aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try

Nor'wester (Springdale) - - EDITORIAL - BY SA­MAN­THA GARDINER

The prov­ince re­cently an­nounced over $35,000 in fund­ing for Merasheen Oys­ter Farms to help sup­port growth in the aqua­cul­ture sec­tor.

The fund­ing will as­sist the com­pany with con­tin­u­ous sock­ing tech­nol­ogy trans­fer of blue mus­sels. Ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease, this cul­ti­va­tion method is more ef­fi­cient and less labour in­ten­sive, and will help im­prove mus­sel prod­uct qual­ity through the in­tro­duc­tion of a proven tech­nol­ogy.

Tourism, Cul­ture In­dus­try and In­no­va­tion Min­is­ter Christopher Mitchel­more made the an­nounce­ment fol­low­ing the prov­ince’s re­cent aqua­cul­ture sum­mit.

The fund­ing will also al­low Merasheen Oys­ter Farms to trans­fer mus­sel seed from Notre Dame Bay to an ice-free grow­ing site Pla­cen­tia Bay, en­abling the com­pany to sup­ply prod­uct to cus­tomers dur­ing win­ter months when har­vest­ing can be dif­fi­cult due to poor ice con­di­tions.

“This in­vest­ment will help di­ver­sify Merasheen Oys­ter Farms, and al­low the com­pany to pro­vide ad­di­tional high-qual­ity prod­ucts into the mar­ket­place while in­creas­ing over­all ex­ports for New­found­land and Labrador,” Mitchel­more stated.

“(The) an­nounce­ment builds Pro­vin­cial fund­ing will as­sist Merasheen Oys­ter Farms with con­tin­u­ous sock­ing tech­nol­ogy trans­fer of blue mus­sels.

on the aqua­cul­ture sum­mit, and our gov­ern­ment’s ef­fort to work with in­dus­try to iden­tify, cre­ate and es­tab­lish ways to sus­tain and grow the aqua­cul­ture sec­tor.”

Fund­ing is pro­vided through the Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Sup­port Pro­gram.

As part of “The Way For­ward,” the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment is di­rectly en­gag­ing the aqua­cul­ture, agri­cul­ture, and tech­nol­ogy sec­tors to ad­dress in­dus­try needs in ways that re­sult in new em­ploy­ment and eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity through­out New­found­land and Labrador.

The prov­ince and the New­found­land Aqua­cul­ture In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion have com­mit­ted to a shared goal of grow­ing salmon pro­duc­tion to 50,000 met­ric

tonnes an­nu­ally, and grow­ing mus­sel pro­duc­tion to 10,750 met­ric tonnes an­nu­ally. In achiev­ing these tar­gets, the num­ber of year-round jobs sup­ported by aqua­cul­ture will more than dou­ble, from 1,000 to 2,100, ac­cord­ing to the re­lease.

“Merasheen Oys­ter Farms is a grow­ing com­mer­cial oys­ter pro­ducer in this prov­ince and an im­por­tant em­ployer in the re­gion,” stated Brian Warr, MHA for Baie Verte-Green Bay. “This lat­est in­vest­ment by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment will al­low the com­pany to con­tinue to di­ver­sify to meet in­dus­try de­mands. Fur­ther em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties are an­tic­i­pated once the new tech­nol­ogy is im­ple­mented, and an im­proved prod­uct for the mar­ket­place.”

Could aqua­cul­ture be the an­swer to long-term sus­tain­abil­ity in some of New­found­land’s ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties?

Ac­cord­ing to Grand Fall­sWind­sor-Buchans MHA Al Hawkins there is a bright fu­ture for young peo­ple in this in­dus­try over the com­ing years.

If you are un­sure what aqua­cul­ture is, a quick Google search will tell you it is the rear­ing of aquatic an­i­mals or the cul­ti­va­tion of aquatic plants for food. In New­found­land par­tic­u­larly the in­ter­est is in the cul­ti­va­tion of salmon and mus­sel farm­ing.

Jobs within this in­dus­try range from highly tech­ni­cal jobs where peo­ple would need a high qual­ity of ex­per­tise in the area and with in­creased pro­duc­tion there will be op­por­tu­ni­ties in pro­cess­ing, “there is a whole gamut of op­por­tu­ni­ties in that in­dus­try,” Hawkins told The Ad­ver­tiser.

The aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try par­tic­u­larly in St. Al­bans and Har­bour Bre­ton has re­ally re­vi­tal­ized that area of the prov­ince and there has been sig­nif­i­cant growth, Hawkins ex­plained.

St. Al­bans boasts a state of the art and very so­phis­ti­cated lab­o­ra­tory.

“For the sus­tain­abil­ity of these com­mu­ni­ties we’ve got to look at the op­por­tu­ni­ties and where we can in­crease the work op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple to say,” said Hawkins.

In com­mer­cial salmon pro­duc­tion the present ca­pac­ity sits some­where around 25,000 met­ric tones, which will in­crease over the next lit­tle while to 50,000 met­ric tones.

“In the next cou­ple of years we’re go­ing to dou­ble that ca­pac­ity,” Hawkins said.

The same growth will hap­pen with mus­sels, right now the num­ber sits some­where around 3,000 met­ric tones, Hawkins said, and that num­ber will grow to 10,750 met­ric tones.

Achiev­ing these tar­gets would mean more than dou­ble the cur­rent num­ber of year-round jobs sup­ported by aqua­cul­ture to ap­prox­i­mately 2,100.

“That is a sig­nif­i­cant growth rate, we’re dou­bling the ca­pac­ity and dou­bling the num­ber of peo­ple work­ing in the in­dus­try,” Hawkins added.

“One of the chal­lenges for me as min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for La­bor and also for Ad­vanced Ed­u­ca­tion and Skills is that I’ve got to look at some of the chal­lenges that some of these com­mu­ni­ties are fac­ing in that you know there may be a short­age in work force, so part of my re­spon­si­bil­ity is to make sure that we do have ad­e­quate num­ber of peo­ple that will be able to fill these po­si­tions,” he said.

Im­mi­gra­tion is also a part of Hawkins man­date, mean­ing if there is not a suf­fi­cient num­ber of peo­ple to fill the po­si­tions that be­come avail­able the gov­ern­ment will look at im­mi­gra­tion, and there is a strat­egy in place for that, ac­cord­ing to Hawkins.

“We are en­gag­ing peo­ple and we are en­gag­ing young peo­ple and there are op­por­tu­ni­ties for some of our in­ter­na­tional stu­dents that come into New­found­land and Labrador to find em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and to work here and con­trib­ute to our econ­omy as well,” he said.

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