Fishing for Opportunities in OMAFRA-U of G Aquaculture Workshops
While fresh, locally-sourced food is becoming more important to consumers, Ontario rainbow trout farms can only produce enough stock to supply about half of the trout sold in Ontario. We are currently importing trout from Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Columbia and other countries to meet consumer demand. Rainbow trout is the main species farmed in Ontario, with 4,510 tonnes (9.9 million pounds) produced in 2015.
The aquaculture sector has been growing 15% a year for the past 30 years worldwide. However, aquaculture growth in Ontario did not increase between 1996 and 2013 for many reasons, including:
To address the lack of defined policy and need for regulatory reform, provincial and federal government agencies and the aquaculture sector worked to develop policy which would encourage the growth of aquaculture on public waters. Steve Naylor, Aquaculture and Aquaponics Specialist, has assisted with this process since 2003. This work has resulted in the Application Guide for Aquaculture on Public Waters being posted for comment on the Environmental Registry in the spring of 2016 which allowed for public and stakeholder groups' input on future policies that support the growth and potential investment in the sector.
To encourage further understanding of opportunities for aquaculture development, in 2010 Steve partnered with the University of Guelph to deliver the Getting Started in Aquaculture and Aquaponics workshop. Held four to five times a year at the Alma Aquaculture Research Station with about 24 attendees participating each time, the workshop provides hands-on learning about the industry. Participants learn to make informed decisions on whether to invest (or not invest) in aquaculture and aquaponic development opportunities in Ontario.
The cost to establish a commercial fish farm in Ontario is more than $1 million. Approximately one to two people out of each of Steve's aquaculture workshops considers establishing a commercial venture. About the same number decide to establish smaller scale, part time endeavours.
Over the past five years, more than 500 people have attended these workshops. Those who invest in the industry do so with a clear understanding of the time, effort and financial commitment needed to succeed, increasing the likelihood of their success.
The economic contribution of aquaculture to Ontario's economy is $70 million annually. With 195 jobs directly attributed to aquaculture and another 150 indirect jobs, the sector provides opportunities often in rural areas where economic growth is vital. Substantial growth in rainbow trout production occurred in 2014 and 2015 and is estimated at 5,500 tonnes (12.1 million pounds) for 2016.
Steve's work over the years has had an impact on this sector by providing information to inform policy, as well as helping to hatch successful producers. These efforts have moved the industry closer to meeting consumer demand in Ontario for locally raised fish and other seafood products. It is no "fish tale" that this industry, has potential to grow into a "big one."
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