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Open for business: N.S. aquaculture sector gets millions from budget

Click to play video 'Aquaculture sector gets a multi-million dollar boost' Aquaculture sector gets a multi-million dollar boost
An industry that's had its fair share of controversy in Nova Scotia is getting a $2.8 million dollar investment from the province.

Fish farming in Nova Scotia is receiving an almost $3-million boost from the province.

Premier Stephen McNeil and Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Colwell announced the investment of millions of dollars, coming from the government’s most recent budget, in Sambro, Wednesday.

“Currently, aquaculture is worth about $60 million annually to the Nova Scotia economy and that translates into about 600 direct jobs in our coastal communities,” McNeil said.

“As part of our 2016-17 budget we’re investing $2.8 million to help build this industry responsibly through research and development and more rigorous approvals for process, leases and licensing.”

The rising demand for seafood has led to rapid growth in the aquaculture industry.

“The industry has to go that way, we can’t catch anymore fish, there’s no more to catch. So if we do it in a sustainable way it’s a great economic opportunity for the province,” Colwell said.

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There are currently 44 companies actively farming fish in Nova Scotia.

Marine and freshwater are the two main types of fish farming and involve the process of breeding, harvesting and rearing all types of fin and shell fish as well as plants and algae.

Nova Scotia has both land-based and open-pen fish farms, but there are conflicting views on whether enough scientific research and regulations have gone into these types of aqua farms.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia report wants fish farm changes

Many marine conservationists are concerned about the lack of containment management in open-water pens throughout Atlantic Canada.

“In New Brunswick about 75 per cent of salmon in the Magaguadavic River are from farms, they’re escapees from farms. In Maine, where they have a containment management protocol, 0.25 per cent of the fish in the rivers are from farms,” said Susanna Fuller, a marine conservation coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre.

Fuller says another area of concern is the need for regulation in chemical use.

“Our chemical use in Atlantic Canada is 204 times that of Scotland, 216 times that of Norway and six times more than B.C., so we’re using a lot of antibiotics and pesticides in our salmon farming,” Fuller said.

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The provincial government also announced it’s accepting new applications for ocean-based shellfish, cultivated-marine plant and trout farming.

The province says this investment will help fund research projects focused on interaction between sites and their local environment and create advanced planning for aquaculture development and innovative production methods.