Ruth Salmon, the executive director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, is calling on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to establish a federal aquaculture act. She says that currently there are too many regulations that are complex and overlapping at all levels of government.
Although Canada’s aquaculture industry, which operates in all provinces and the Yukon, has been around for about 40 years, the industry falls under the jurisdiction of Canada’s Fishery Act.
However, the aquaculture industry could have its own act in the not too distant future.
Ruth Salmon, the executive director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Association (CAIA), is calling for a federal aquaculture act as the Alliance feels there are too many regulations that are complex and overlapping at all levels of government. She said that this overlap is both confusing and cumbersome for aquaculture growers and producers.
Salmon said, “The aquaculture industry can, and does, work in cooperation with the wild fishery. However, the two are very different industries as one is fishing and one is farming.
“What we have found over the years is that the Fisheries Act is focused on conservation and protection. While this is critical, it doesn’t necessarily guide a food producing industry like aquaculture. The Fisheries Act doesn’t give us the kind of direction we need so that’s why we feel it’s important to differentiate between the two industries.”
Salmon said that despite the need for an aquaculture act, people working in the fishing industry are key partners and stakeholders in aquaculture as both share the same marine environment.
Salmon said that there are other reasons why an aquaculture act would be important for the industry.
“We think federal legislation would finally define aquaculture and bring some clarity to our sector,” Salmon said.
“An aquaculture act would recognize the importance of aquaculture as an important and growing industry and would serve to reform some of the regulatory overlap and duplication as all rules and regulation would be nestled in one umbrella legislation.”
Salmon said that one example of the differences between some provinces now is how each jurisdiction deals with length of licences. In some provinces growers are only given a licence for a year at one time where other provinces allow licences beyond a 12-month period.
Salmon said that one point she would like to make abundantly clear about a possible aquaculture act is that the CAIA is not suggesting that all existing aquaculture regulations be changed.
“We would not be starting from scratch,” she said, “as we’re not looking for less regulation. We are, after all, producing a food product and are always looking for more appropriate and streamlined regulations.
“What we’re proposing is not as dramatic as it might sound, but it would still have a lot of important benefits that would come from that.
“We already have very strict regulations regarding the sustainable growth of the industry. Many of our members have received third party recognition for their products by independent bodies which gives credence to the point that we are managing the industry responsibly and sustainably.”
Salmon said that the CAIA is in the process of talking to provincial and federal industry representatives about the possibility of developing an aquacture act.
She said, “These talks are in the very early stages and everyone has to see the benefit, but I think there’s value in having that discussion. If there were an interest in taking the process forward then other stakeholders would be involved in that discussion too.
“Overall, we’re talking about fish health and food safety. We have many good practices in place now, but we are always looking for ways to improve the industry.”
According to Gail Shea, the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, aquaculture is the fastest growing sector worldwide and is now supplying 50 percent of the global demand for fish and seafood. This growth will likely continue to advance by seven percent a year. In Canada, the industry is worth over $2 billion in total economic activity annually as we produce about 174,000 tonnes of product. This translates into 14,000 jobs, most of which are in rural areas and Aboriginal communities.