Norway is not about to let this unprecedented opportunity pass. Neither is Scotland, Chile, New Zealand or Australia.
Canada? I hope not.
What opportunity? The unparalleled one for Canada to help feed the world and create economic growth in our coastal communities, especially in Atlantic Canada.
We live in a world where almost one billion people starve every day, another billion suffer from malnutrition and yet a further billion are obese. By 2050, our total population will rise to nine billion and the need for food security and poverty alleviation will be even greater.
Árni M. Mathiesen, Assistant Director General, Fisheries and Aquaculture, at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, wrote recently that aquaculture, the world’s fastest growing food sector, will be instrumental in meeting this challenge.
“A significant increase in Canada’s aquaculture productivity and production could well make a significant impact on global supply,” said Mathieson. “As an advanced and environmentally conscious country, through new technologies and innovations, Canada also has a chance to lead the way: To disseminate the knowledge, secure investments, and contribute significantly to achieving our common goal of global food security.”
No region in the world is better poised than Atlantic Canada to reap the benefits of aquaculture’s potential and at the same time, revitalize its rural, coastal communities.
But we need a plan to make it happen.
Both Norway and Scotland have bold visions and solid plans to sustainably grow their salmon farming industries to help meet the world’s growing demand for healthy protein. Norway’s goal is to produce 2.7 million tonnes of salmon and trout – enough to feed 100 million people by 2025. That production translates to 56,000 full-time jobs and a $62 billion contribution to the country’s GDP. That’s enough to finance about 65 per cent of the country’s nursing homes or meet 60 per cent of the demand for kindergarten spaces. Scotland – a country viewed by many as having a similar production capacity to Atlantic Canada – has increased its salmon production from 14 tonnes in 1971 to 154,164 tonnes in 2010. Scotland plans to increase its salmon production to 220,000 tonnes by 2020….or as they call it “220 by 2020.”
While other countries have seen their aquaculture industries grow consistently over six per cent annually, Canada’s aquaculture production has flat lined over the past decade. Despite our enormous competitive advantages, Canada’s share of the world’s farmed fish market has fallen by 40 per cent during the same period. Canada now accounts for only 0.2 per cent of global aquaculture production. This stagnation has taken place while other producers in New Zealand, Norway, Scotland and Chile have raced ahead.
One of the reasons for this is Canada’s lack of a national strategy to move aquaculture forward. Canada’s aquaculture industry is governed in large part by the Fisheries Act, which doesn’t even mention the word ‘aquaculture’. It was designed to manage a wild resource not a food production sector. The consequence is a regulatory framework that is complex and uncertain. Federal and provincial regulations overlap and duplicate. Ultimately, this halts growth and discourages investment and innovation. Our famers recognize they face a unique obligation to ensure they operate responsibly. They are not advocating against regulation; they simply want to make sure it meets the public interest with as little ‘red tape’ as possible. Our farmers are committed to environmental sustainability, fish health, innovative research and development and involvement in their communities.
New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have aquaculture development strategies that help guide our industry’s development. But more is needed. With a national vision, we will unlock the full range of economic, environmental and public health benefits that flow from a competitive, sustainable and growing farmed seafood sector.
Canada’s aquaculture industry currently generates just over $1 billion in economic activity across this country. Increasing production by just six per cent annually would bring that to $2.8 billion and would result in significant job growth.
Our region is facing record debt, skyrocketing health care costs, an aging population and high unemployment. Salmon farming represents an extraordinary opportunity to bring economic prosperity to Atlantic Canada’s rural communities – while producing one of the world’s healthiest foods.
The rest of the world is grasping this opportunity. Atlantic Canada can too. All we have to do is work together to make it happen.
Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association