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March 31, 2006
(Fisheries and Aquaculture)

Government makes significant investment in aquaculture development

The untapped potential of the province�s aquaculture sector offers an excellent opportunity for economic and employment growth in rural areas, and Budget 2006 provides new tools to unleash that potential, says Tom Rideout, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

"No other sector offers more development potential for our rural regions than aquaculture," Minister Rideout said in an address to the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association (NAIA) last night. "Less than 10 per cent of our province�s aquaculture space is being utilized. This is a phenomenal opportunity for certain areas of the province that we must act on to help bring stability in rural regions."

Minister Rideout said that it has been the experience in other jurisdictions where aquaculture has a much longer history than here that each job on a fish farm provides an additional four to five jobs in the aquaculture processing, supply and services areas.

"The Budget 2006 strategic investments for aquaculture will help realize the potential of that sector," the minister said. "With our investments, and in partnership with the industry, research and development bodies, the federal government and other provincial government departments, together we can accelerate the development and growth of our aquaculture sector."

The total provincial aquaculture production in 2004 was 5,600 tonnes and grew to 8,200 tonnes in 2005. This represented a 45 per cent increase in one year. Furthermore, the total value of the sector increased from $22 million in 2004 to $33.5 million in 2005. In 1995, the total production was 1,000 tonnes with a value of $4 million. This clearly represents a significant increase over the last decade.

Minister Rideout, using the St. Alban�s region as an example of the economic benefits aquaculture development can bring, told his audience that facilities there have produced aquaculture products year round, and have kept more than 200 individuals employed.

"Without question, the success story of St. Alban�s demonstrates the true potential of the industry in our province, and bodes well for other rural areas of Newfoundland and Labrador," Minister Rideout said.

Creating new employment opportunities in rural regions of the province is the focus of government�s new initiatives to strengthen and diversify the fish and aquaculture industry. Budget 2006 invests an additional $4.2 million in aquaculture - more than doubling last year�s expenditures - to assist the sector expand at a quicker pace.

The three key areas of investment are a new Aquaculture Capital Incentive Program, an enhanced aquaculture industry support initiative, and establishment of a cod aquaculture demonstration farm.

The new Aquaculture Capital Incentive Program is designed to address the lack of investment capital in the industry, which has been an important constraint to industry growth. The program will see $3.5 million invested in Budget 2006. This will enable the sector to leverage matching private sector investment, in order to establish and expand aquaculture operations in the province. The purpose of the fund will be to attract new investment, expand existing operations more rapidly and see economic development benefits from aquaculture, as quickly as possible. In fact, it is projected that the program will add approximately 150 full-time jobs to the industry within the next two years.

Government will also be enhancing the aquaculture industry support initiative by investing an additional $180,000 in the program in Budget 2006. Minister Rideout said, "This enhanced initiative will provide for an innovation program to improve industry efficiency and profitability, as well as an aquaculture prospecting initiative to encourage investment."

"Our province has been at the forefront of the development of the technology and techniques to develop cod aquaculture, led by our pioneering industry and supported by sound science from Memorial University of Newfoundland," said Minister Rideout. "We believe that this province has many competitive advantages that will enable us to become an international leader in cod aquaculture."

Government will be taking the next step to commercialize cod aquaculture through the establishment of a commercial scale cod demonstration farm by committing $500,000 for this initiative in Budget 2006.

Minister Rideout said, "Our government will be seeking additional financial support from the federal government for this initiative. We will also be seeking the participation of industry in this important development."

The people of Newfoundland and Labrador have always depended on the fishery and will continue to do so. Many opportunities remain for development of this industry by building on our existing aquaculture sector.

"The global fishery is changing and our province must change with it, in order to be able to continue to compete in the global marketplace and provide employment opportunities at home," said the minister. "The aquaculture investments in Budget 2006 will go a long way toward enabling this change to happen."

Speaking Notes
Honourable Tom Rideout - NAIA Annual General Meeting - March 30, 2006

Media contact: Lori Lee Oates, ABC, Communications, (709) 729-3733, 690-8403

2006 03 31                                         11:45 a.m.

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