Aquaculture operations can be far-reaching, with the potential to offer jobs in several communities at once.
For example, Northern Harvest (through subsidiary Northern Harvest Smolt Ltd.) has a land-based hatchery facility in Stephenville. That feeds young salmon into the floating cages of Northern Harvest operations at Bay D’Espoir, where the fish mature.
And with some newly announced federal funding commitments, Northern Harvest will work to establish salmon-raising sites in Rencontre East.
Between offerings from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), $4 million in grants and loans was announced Tuesday, to help grow aquaculture enterprises in Newfoundland and Labrador.
In addition to Northern Harvest, Allen’s Fisheries, Newfoundland Aqua Services, Gray Aqua Group and Notre Dame Bay Mussel Farms are also named as partial recipients of the funding (see fact box).
Of the $4 million committed in total, $708,500 is being provided under DFO’s Aquaculture Innovation and Market Access Program (announced in 2008), while $3.3 million will be in the form of loans for successful applicants to ACOA’s Business Development Program.
“These kind of programs and this help really kind of moves things along,” Northern Harvest spokesman Larry Ingalls said, when contacted by The Telegram.
While the Northern Harvest group of companies is based in New Brunswick, the $2.3 million it will receive in government support for its Atlantic salmon farming operations will go to expansion work here.
“Basically 100 per cent of the company’s expansion in production in the last three years, it’s all been in Newfoundland,” he said.
Ingalls said there is space available along the coasts of this province. Newfoundland and Labrador, he added, has many large bays and fjords, offering protection for ocean farming infrastructure.
“Our operation more than doubled production in the past year. Without the (government) support, that could not have happened,” he said.
He claimed production by the industry as a whole is “significantly more then it would have been” without federal and provincial government assistance.
The latest federal funding commitments were announced by Sen. Elizabeth Marshall at a media event at DFO’s Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre on East White Hills Road in St. John’s Tuesday. The announcement was made on behalf of Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield and the minister responsible for ACOA, Bernard Valcourt.
Following a tour of the DFO facility, Marshall spoke with reporters, mentioning she had conducted an audit of the aquaculture industry while in the role of provincial auditor general. She served in that role from 1992 to 2002.
“I think that the industry is evolving. I mean, in the early days, there were problems. But of course when a new industry starts up there’s always going to be problems,” she told reporters. “But I can see now, compared to what I saw 15 years ago, that the industry is much more established.”
She said there are more companies and more employees and the industry has undergone a “natural progression” over the years.
According to the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association (NAIA, naia.ca), there are currently four species farmed sustainably in Newfoundland and Labrador: blue mussels, Atlantic salmon, steelhead trout and Atlantic cod.
The total market value for the aquaculture industry in 2011 was $120 million, up from $118 million the year before.
Meanwhile, the overall value of seafood produced in the province last year has been estimated at just over a billion dollars.