Letter: Time to rebalance aquaculture's economic picture

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Recent public outrage about the tens of millions of tax dollars the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has squandered on diseased fish from the open net aquaculture industry is understandable and justified. While local folks are pinching pennies, multinational companies like Cooke Aquaculture recently had a one-year revenue of about $570 million dollars. The 400 or so promised fish processing jobs for Shelburne, always just over the horizon, was discussed in the newspapers back in 2010. At best, a processing plant might open by 2016, if 3 million fish per year can be harvested. But even 3 million fish per year won’t be big enough to employ 400 fish processors.

If you are tired of waiting, there are two things Nova Scotians can do right now to make this playing field a bit more even. First, the Province should immediately declare that all farmed fish grown in Nova Scotian waters come from hatcheries in this Province, are fed with fish feed made here, and are processed here, not in New Brunswick. There is plenty of local unused fish processing capacity to quickly put this into place. Should a fish processing plant ever be built, there would be an experienced work force ready to go. In the meanwhile upwards of 40 jobs would be created.

Second, Nova Scotia should take a lesson from booming Alberta. Large oil companies there pay a usage or royalty fee for using one of Alberta’s natural resources, its oil fields. That Province collects about 35.4% of the net profit the oil companies make when oil prices are at $100 Canadian/barrel. The parallel situation here is the use of our greatest natural resource, our beautiful waterways. In 2012 fish farms in Nova Scotia had a revenue of $36.9 million dollars. Federal studies show that for every dollar of revenue, fish farms produce about 25.2 cents in profit. So, for 2012 alone the fish grown in our waters produced about $9.3 million dollars in profits. If Nova Scotia also had a usage fee of 35.4%, some $3.3 million dollars would have been received by the Province in just one year, most of which should then be remitted to the counties that house these fish farms. Had the Province started to charge a usage fee just 5 years ago, Nova Scotians would have been about $14 million dollars better off.

Don’t worry about the open net fish companies going elsewhere because of this usage fee. Even with a usage fee totaling $14 million dollars for the past five years, they still would have received over $25 million dollars in profit.

 Herschel Specter

Shelburne

Organizations: Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Geographic location: Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Alberta New Brunswick

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