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Analysis Shows Massive Aquaculture Growth


New Brunswick, Canada

Operators have seen benefits of government spending during past decade.

The province's aquaculture industry has grown tenfold over the space of a decade, according to a new analysis released by the provincial government Monday morning.

That growth has transformed the south coast of the province, according to aquaculture operator Jennifer Caines.

"It's real. I know I certainly feel it in my own community, and the many communities where we have employees," said Caines, project manager of Northern Harvest Sea Farms. "I've worked in the aquaculture industry for 30 years in the province, but it's really the past 12 or 14 years that I've seen major increases in employment, and just the activity around the area."

Northern Harvest is one of the companies that produce salmon in the province, and that's where the massive industry growth has been — from fewer than 5,000 tonnes in 2003 up to more than 20,000 tonnes a decade later.

That growth has translated into the province's economy.

In 2003, the total impact on the province's GDP from aquaculture was about $10.5 million. In 2013, it was $104.1.

Over that period, employment has also increased massively — from 225 person-years of employment in 2003 up to 872 in 2013.

All told, the government now estimates more than 1,000 people work in the aquaculture business.

For Job Halfyard, a mussel producer who has farms in Green Bay and in the Connaigre region, the biggest frustration is he can't expand his business even more.

He said he produces between 1.5 million and 4 million pounds of mussels, mostly for the American market, but he'd like to increase that to 6 million pounds in the next few years.

The aquaculture industry has benefitted from a lot of government spending — $25 million from the aquaculture capital equity program, and $23 million in support infrastructure for the industry.

Halfyard said it has been mostly directed at salmon farming on the south coast.

"They can get a lot of funding and so on for the salmon side — putting in quality wharves," Halfyard said. "That hasn't trickled over to the mussel industry. We have to pretty well build our own roads and infrastructure."

Halfyard said mussel farming is more labour intensive than salmon production, so it has the potential for even more jobs, if they can get the space in the water.

Caines said from her perspective, the trick is about expanding the industry, but doing it in a smart way.

"There is room to grow, and I think sometimes that causes a lot of fear, because a lot of people think it's going to be taking over the whole coastline," she said. "That's not the case at all, but we are seeing a very controlled and very managed growth in the industry.

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