Chief Rod Googoo welcomed two student performers on stage during his announcement of fish farm funding in Waycobah. Photo by Kate Gorman.
-by Anne Farries
Waycobah continues to push for big aquaculture.
With more than a half-million dollars in new federal funding, the First Nation plans to scale up its fish farm in Whycocomagh Bay with new equipment and a steady supply of fingerlings from a hatchery in Wolfville that the band purchased this week.
“We have the technology, we have the work force,” Chief Rod Googoo said Monday, standing next to MP Rodger Cuzner on the stage of the band’s school, in front of a crowd of about 200.
The goal, Googoo said, is to push toward the band’s self-sufficiency by growing an industry that feeds on the community’s strengths, particularly, the Bras D’or Lakes and the Trans-Canada Highway, which runs through the village.
The Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency (ACOA) is kicking in the lion’s share of the new money. The band is adding $135,000 from revenue earned by processing close to four million worth of fish last season.
“In 2008, we had 15 people working in our fishery,” Googoo said. “This year, we had 120.”
“Our goal next year is to process nine million,” said Googoo, who believes the community can eventually hit $30 million.
Cuzner said the federal government is financing the fledgling fishery because Waycobah has “built a tremendous amount of pride in the fishery,” and because Cape Breton as a whole will do better if it diversifies its aquaculture.
“There are people in Boston reselling (Cape Breton fish) as New England seafood,” Cuzner said. “They take our resource and reap a lot of the benefit.”
“We understand now that we can do that on our own. We can take those resources, harvest them, process them, and then bring them to market.”
The Waycobah fish farm grows steelhead trout, which Googoo said are free of parasites and fed nutrients that contain no chemicals or preservatives.
Cuzner described the Waycobah band council as “impressive and practical” for its plans to produce trout of a size that will yield four-pound fillets.
“There seems to be, in this community, a great passion for the aquaculture industry and a great pride,” Cuzner said. “They have recognized that there’s great growth potential.”
The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency provided $545,000 in non-repayable funding. Through the Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board, the province added $140,000. The Ulnooweg Development Group gave $259,000 in grants and a $100,000 loan.
Northern Harvest Sea Farms, based in St. George, New Brunswick, has a contract with the band to buy and market the farmed fish.
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