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Ontario provides a healthy climate for fish farms

New policy supports Ontario’s abundant wild fish populations and a healthy cage aquaculture industry

By SeaWestNews

Ontario has moved to provide business certainty and enable long-term investments in aquaculture by allowing longer licences for fish farms that use net pens in lakes.

The provincial government today released its final policy paper on lake-based cage fish farming by finalising the water and sediment quality objectives for how fish farms should be situated, sized and managed.

The key changes that add business certainty, unlock loan and investment opportunities, and help the sector grow, including:

  • Finalising objectives for water quality for net-pen farms, on the industry’s request,
  • Extending aquaculture licences from 5 to 20 years, and
  • Restructuring public land tenure from 5-year land-use permits to 20-year leases for net-pen farms

Ontario’s fish and shrimp farmers grow more than 100 million meals of eco-friendly protein every year. The sector has an economic contribution of more than $122 million, and provides jobs and prosperity to many of Ontario’s rural, northern and Indigenous communities.

“Ontario’s aquaculture sector brings jobs and prosperity to rural, northern and Indigenous communities across Ontario,” said Jeff Yurek, provincial Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

“Setting this direction will provide greater clarity and certainty for investment. It’s an important step in reducing barriers to industry growth and ensuring the industry continues to play an important role in providing our food, protecting our waters and strengthening the provincial economy for years to come.”

“Healthy locally grown fish are important to both Ontario families and to our economy,” said John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. “This policy supports Ontario’s abundant wild fish populations and a healthy cage aquaculture industry.”

The move was hailed by local fish farmers.

“Aquaculture brings jobs and prosperity to Ontario’s rural, northern, and Indigenous communities,” said RJ Taylor, Co-owner, Cedar Crest Trout Farms.

“Our farms are certified and internationally recognized for their environmental stewardship and best management practices.

“We are delighted to see the Ontario government embrace Ontario seafood farmers and help us create jobs, fuel our economy and feed Ontarians,” said Taylor, who is also the inaugural chair for the  Council of Emerging Leaders in Aquaculture.

“Businesses like Cedar Crest Trout Farm play an important role in providing a quality food product for Ontarians and new economic opportunities for our region and province, and so I’m pleased to see our government supporting our local business and the aquaculture industry,” said Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker.

Cedar Crest Trout Farms is the largest supplier of young fish (fingerlings) to Ontario’s cage fish farms in Lake Huron. The mature fish are then processed in St. Thomas and throughout Ontario before distribution to retail stores across the province. These operations support food growth and production and a healthy economy in Ontario.

There are currently six provincially licensed commercial cage fish farm operations in Ontario and they are located in Lake Huron.

In 2018, the market value for rainbow trout in Ontario was $29 million.

The provincial government said that the moves, announced today, are an example of how it can make Ontario “open for business” without compromising environmental rules.