Federal government advisory council report could be catalyst to grow aquaculture industry

EVANSVILLE—It appears a report released by the federal government’s advisory council on economic growth, ‘Unleash the Growth Potential of Key Sectors,’ places considerable emphasis on the need for initiatives and supports to enhance and grow the aquaculture industry, is what industry members have been lobbying for, and will benefit the industry.

“It’s really what we’ve been waiting for, for a very long time,” stated Mike Meeker, of Meeker’s Management Services last week. “I think so, finally we are being recognized this way. When I first received the report I didn’t want to get too excited about what it contained so I contacted Richard Moccia (Professor, Department of Animal Biosciences Director of Aquaculture Centre, University of Guelph, who had contacted the Canadian Industry Aquaculture Alliance, which is the most powerful lobbying body we have in aquaculture.”

Mr. Moccia, in an email Mr. Meeker provided to the Recorder, said in the report, “one of the key sectors identified was ag-food, and there is considerable emphasis placed on the potential contribution of agriculture (including aquaculture) in the future economic wealth generation for Canada.” He noted as well, “those of you who work closely with government and industry to enhance aquaculture development in this country may benefit from the context provided in this document. This is especially relevant now, given Minister Leblanc’s assertion that his government will embark on developing a National Aquaculture Act for Canada, predicated on enabling growth and prosperity for aquatic farming.”

“In the report they have made a renewal to farmers and big waters, representing all agriculture including aquaculture. And the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada has made a commitment to provide more support for freshwater aquaculture in Canada,” continued Mr. Meeker. “It just seems a whole bunch of things are combining at one time,” said Mr. Meeker. “I’m especially excited when it is indicated in the report that for example they are saying “we want aquaculture to grow three times what it is currently. And most importantly, the advisory council recognizes that it is government regulations that have been stopping been curtailing-stopping our industry’s growth.”

“I’ve been saying all along we have an all-star team in our industry and all we needed was to have the opportunity to be able to grow more fish, to see an increase in our industry,” stated Mr. Meeker. “But particularly in Ontario, the MOE (Ministry of the Environment) has put in place regulations that make growth very, very difficult. I think if this report has any real teeth I think it will definitely help us. It’s really what we’ve been waiting for in the industry, for a very long time.”

“Taking the Turkish (country of Turkey) example, it shows that with a shared aligned government-private partnership they got together and agreed that the aquaculture needed to be allowed to grow. Everyone came together and the industry has grown substantially,” said Mr. Meeker.

Mr. Meeker noted there are a few caveats in the report that outline what needs to be done to protect the environment, “and that is necessary. We have already demonstrated numerous times our operations do not harm the environment and we take actions necessary to protect it (the environment). We already know our industry does not have any negative affects environmentally.”

“The advisory council has taken into account how far behind we are compared to other countries and areas in agriculture-aquaculture growth and how much more potential there is here,” said Mr. Meeker. “Other countries laugh at us because we have a thousand times more the resources they do and they produce more and grow faster than the industry in Canada has. And that regulations in place have been the main reason our industry has not grown.”

Mr. Meeker had the opportunity to make a presentation to the committee in Ottawa last year. “They indicated a follow up report would be coming. I knew it would be a year if not longer, for this report to be done. I thought this might have been buried, but apparently it wasn’t. It appears finally we are being heard by this council. It may be the final catalyst for our industry to move ahead and reach its potential. This is the strongest worded document I have seen in a long time.”