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Rural Nova Scotia badly needs economic opportunities. And we do have a great economic opportunity in rural Nova Scotia. It’s an old one, a traditional one, proven by the test of time.

That opportunity is sport fishing. Only 25 years ago Nova Scotia was a Mecca for sport fishing. It attracted visitors from all over the world to rural communities like Sherbrooke. These visitors spent money on essentials like lodging, meals, travel and guides. Many purchased land in the area and built camps for frequent visits. Some even built retirement homes near their favourite fishing and permanently joined these rural communities.

Not long ago land for sale on the St. Mary’s River was practically impossible to find. Today it`s difficult to sell that land.

Until the 1990`s our federal government maintained sport fisheries in Nova Scotia through protection services and supplementation from fish hatcheries. In 1995 our federal Department of Fisheries and Ocean divested itself of federal hatcheries in Nova Scotia. By 1999 Atlantic salmon populations plummeted but are now recovering.

One of these hatcheries is located on the Northeast Margaree River. It`s operation was handled by a community group for a number of years and it is now operated by NS Inland Fisheries. The sport fishery supported by this hatchery brought $2.5 Million annually to Inverness County according to a 2005 DFO study.

Sport fishing is a healthy and green activity that has proven its social and economic value in the past and present.

Today, instead of supporting and developing our sport fishery, governments are enthralled with another economic opportunity - fish farming, a relatively new industry that so far has demonstrated its potential to destroy wild fish populations and related fisheries, the marine environment, and our rural social and cultural values.

A recent headline said `Scotland May Restrict Salmon Farms near Important Salmon Rivers`, but the article that really caught my eye was titled `Forums on Genetically Modified Salmon in Atlantic salmon`. Even New Brunswick`s fish farming industry is afraid of this!

October 26th, 2011, DAILY GLEANER, ADAM HURAS

New Brunswick's salmon farming industry says it's strongly opposed to the production of genetically modified salmon, distancing itself from what it labels a "controversial and untested product."

"Our position is very clear, short and simple - we do not support the commercial production of genetically modified salmon," said Nell Halse, chairwoman of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association, which represents firms producing nearly all of the farmed salmon in the region.

The debate over genetically modified Atlantic salmon surfaced in New Brunswick's capital on Tuesday, as a panel of Canadian and American environmentalists on an Atlantic Canadian tour said the practice posed risks to humans and wild salmon stocks.

The fish farmers association, formerly known as the New Brunswick Salmon Growers Association, said it shares the concerns outlined by the groups hosting the event.

The concerns centre on a company's plans to transform its research facility on Prince Edward Island into a commercial hatchery to produce genetically modified salmon eggs.

AquaBounty Technologies has been developing a genetically modified Atlantic salmon for more than 15 years, engineering the fish to grow to market size in half the time it takes a conventional Atlantic salmon.

The engineered salmon has genetic bits from Chinook salmon, the largest salmon species, and ocean pout, a fast-growing, eel-like fish. The company is currently shipping eggs to an inland fish farm in Panama for research purposes. It has applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval of the genetically modified fish, but has no plans to ship fully grown fish to the U.S. market.

The panelists, assembled in Fredericton as members of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, expressed concern the fish could escape aquaculture pens and damage wild salmon populations.

AquaBounty has responded to the network's speaking tour by saying the company has put in place safeguards that will protect wild salmon and that its science has been under close government scrutiny for human health concerns.


So, we have opportunities to rescue Nova Scotia`s rural communities. Will it be a proven and traditional opportunity like sport fishing, a new and potentially destructive opportunity like fish farming, or the brave new world of the Frankenfish?

It`s up to us!

Please send comments and suggestions to slim@rivermagic.ca


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