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Regulatory ‘right sizing,’ transparency needed for a thriving Nova Scotia aquaculture

March 3, 2023  By  Nestor Arellano

(Image: Government of Nova Scotia)

Regulatory right sizing, transparency, and greater public participation, these were the main themes that came out of a public consultation launched last year by the Nova Scotia government to review the province’s aquaculture regime.

“They represent the experiences, concerns, and perceptions that the public and stakeholders hold about the Aquaculture Regulatory Framework. These themes capture the thoughts and opinions with the intent to inform the next steps of the review and recommendations for regulatory improvement,” a report from the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture said.

The report, titled Regulatory Review: What We Heard Summary Report, came back with several key observations:

  • A desire for distinct regulatory processes that reflect the risk level and scale of the
    operation with clear and comprehensive decision-making factors.
  • Concerns related to the time commitment for operators and length of the decision making process and approvals
  • The need for decision factors by sub-sectors to be clear, comprehensive, and comprehensible
  • Licence and lease fees, where operators said the fees they currently pay are fair; while others are not confident the fees are adequate for the use of the public resource
  • The need to address environmental concerns in a more substantive way to ensure the long-term sustainability of the sector
  • Concerns that smaller operators are burdened by a regulatory framework with reporting requirements, and leasing and licensing processes that are cumbersome and expensive

“Nova Scotians care deeply about the environment, their communities and their livelihoods and want their voices heard and reflected in our regulatory framework for aquaculture,” said Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Steve Craig. “I want to thank everyone who took the time to share their views with us. Your input will help inform the future development of the aquaculture sector in Nova Scotia.”

The online public survey opened on August 3, 2022, supported by a public input guide that explained the current aquaculture regulatory framework. During the four-week public engagement, 988 surveys were completed, 864 of which were by Nova Scotia residents from all regions. There were 43 stakeholders engaged, including representatives from the aquaculture industry, fish harvesters, environmental and community organizations, municipalities, and academia. There are 235 marine and land-based aquaculture sites in Nova Scotia. The industry employs nearly 900 people and contributes more than C$80 million (US$58.7 million) per year to the provincial economy.

Following the review, the next steps of the provincial government will be:

  • Consulting firm Davis Pier will prepare a report with recommendations for submission to the Minister for regulatory improvements from the Committee.
  • The Department will review the Committee’s recommendations and bring forward legislative and regulatory amendments for government consideration in 2023-2024
  • The Department will consult the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia on regulatory amendments

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