The Nova Scotia government is hosting a survey ahead of proposed changes to aquaculture industry regulations and an economic development group based in Gabarus, N.S., says time is running out on the public's chance to have a say.
Tim Menk, with the Arc of the Coast Eastern Cape Breton Cooperative Alliance, said ocean farming could help revive rural communities and he hopes people will take part in the survey before it closes on Tuesday.
"We believe that public input is vital to these kind of things, because top-down planning has quite often been seen as part of the problem in government," he said. "We'd like to encourage public participation in this to the extent possible, because views from the public will moderate and inform the people who are making policy decisions and that's critical to seeing that communities — like our own and others that are looking at this — have a chance to put in their two cents worth."
Coastal communities like Gabarus are reliant on the ocean with short fishing seasons, said Menk.
That has led to outmigration and an aging population.
"Plus, you lay over that the complications of climate change impacts on the ocean and the ocean resources are one of the things that keeps this part of the island going economically," he said.
Traditional fin fish aquaculture has come with environmental concerns, Menk said, but there are options to mitigate that.
There are also new ways of doing business that not only reduce environmental impacts, but can help the ocean, he said.
"The part of the business we're interested in is called regenerative ocean farming, which involves seaweeds and shellfish being grown together, which is an ecological and economic sweet spot, because it's beneficial to the environment and also increases food security and the possibility of making profits from ocean resource businesses outside of the normal fishing season."
Menk said shellfish waste fertilizes the seaweed, helping the environment and increasing products that can be sold.
According to the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the regulations were last updated in 2015.
Menk said the existing regulatory regime hinders growth of the industry by adding red tape and making the licensing process lengthy.
"What we're trying to see is growth of this other part of the industry that could be productive and ... benefit the ocean, while at the same time benefiting those who are operating these kind of farms," he said.
The province says the industry includes 235 marine and land-based sites, employs 900 people and contributes $90 million a year to the provincial economy.
The government says it will publish the results of the survey sometime after it closes on Tuesday.
MORE TOP STORIES