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Aquaculture: Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is aquaculture?

  • Is aquaculture important for Nova Scotia?

  • How Is Nova Scotia developing aquaculture?

  • Where is aquaculture happening?

  • How does aquaculture work with Nova Scotia's traditional fishery?

  • Where can I get more information?


    What is aquaculture?

    Simply put, aquaculture is the farming of plants or animals in fresh or marine waters. It is the aquatic equivalent of agriculture and it is often referred to as "fish farming."

    Aquaculture is not a new activity. In fact, aquaculture stretches back to early civilizations. It is believed that China cultured carp some 4000 years ago. The Japanese farmed oysters in tidal waters about 2000 B.C., while the Romans cultured oysters in 100 B.C. In Nova Scotia, oysters were being cultivated 100 years ago.

    Aquatic farming has been increasing around the world as countries strive to meet growing demands for protein foods. In 1995 the Canadian aquaculture industry generated more than $300 million annually in revenue. The industry overall employed 5,200 Canadians in 1993, 2,800 in aquaculture and 2,400 in supplies and services.

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    Is aquaculture important for Nova Scotia?

    Nova Scotia is closely identified with the sea. The vast majority of Nova Scotians live near or on the coast, and many make their living from the sea through traditional fishing activities and more recently aquaculture.

    Nova Scotia has an important fishing industry. In fact, Nova Scotian companies export over $700 million worth of seafood products each year to countries around the world. Aquaculture is helping many fishing communities diversify industrial activities and create employment opportunities.

    In addition to jobs directly associated with aquaculture operations, there are significant spin-off benefits for businesses that manufacture fish feed, netting, boats and other equipment. Fish plants, which often drive the economy of coastal communities, also reap the benefits of processing aquaculture products.

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    How Is Nova Scotia developing aquaculture?

    The Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries & Aquaculture is the lead agency for aquaculture development in the province. The department issues leases and licenses for aquaculture sites. Currently, there are approximately 380 licensed sites in the province.

    The extension services section of the department provides information, technical expertise and technology transfer to aquaculturists. Field staff work with finfish and shellfish farmers to solve problems and improve production. The department also carries out applied research and development projects that support aquaculture development for species currently cultivated and for species that show a potential for farming such as halibut and cod.

    The department has a five-year plan, the Nova Scotia Aquaculture Development Strategy, to guide aquaculture development. The strategy emphasizes the government's commitment to develop aquaculture in partnership with industry and coastal communities.

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    Where is aquaculture happening?

    Currently, there are approximately 380 issued aquaculture sites in Nova Scotia. What makes Nova Scotia different from other provinces is the range of different types of species and places where aquaculture is practiced.

    The Gulf of St. Lawrence/Northumberland Straight area has traditionally been an excellent place to grow American oysters and this activity continues today.

    The Bras d'Or Lakes in Cape Breton have been the sites of American oysters and Atlantic salmon leases for many years. Coastal areas of Cape Breton hold promise for blue mussels, sea scallops and steelhead salmon.

    The eastern shore area from the Strait of Canso to Halifax has clean, cold water that currently supports blue mussel and sea scallop culture and is predicted to be a promising area for steelhead salmon in the future.

    The south shore area from Halifax to Yarmouth is characterized by good currents and warm water temperatures, both excellent conditions for blue mussels, European oysters, steelhead salmon and sea scallops. There is also a lot of activity related to steelhead salmon in the Lobster Bay area.

    Atlantic salmon require relatively warm water throughout the winter. For this reason, areas acceptable for year-round farming are limited. Areas include the Annapolis Basin, Shelburne Harbour and parts of St. Margaret's Bay.

    Nova Scotia also has great potential for growing many other types of species such as sea urchins, Atlantic halibut, haddock, flatfish and sea plants in areas where water conditions are suitable.

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    How does aquaculture work with Nova Scotia's traditional fishery?

    The traditional fishery is a major industry in Nova Scotia with an annual market value approaching one billion dollars.

    Aquaculture works with the traditional fishery, and offers coastal communities new opportunities for diversifying their economy and creating jobs. Many coastal communities, particularly those with a history of traditional fishing, have wharves, slipways, gear sheds and other fishing infrastructure that can be used by aquaculturists as well. People, particularly fishers, living in these communities possess good knowledge and the experience of working on the ocean and can extend that expertise to aquaculture activity. In fact, traditional fisherman are taking advantage of the new opportunities in aquaculture; some are going into aquaculture as a full-time business while others see aquaculture as a way to diversify their fishing activity.

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    Where can I get more information?

    For more information on aquaculture email the Aquaculture Division, or write to:

    Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture
    Aquaculture Division
    P.O. Box 2223
    Halifax, N.S.
    B3J 3C4

    Phone (902) 424-0356
    Fax (902) 424-1766

  Last Update: August 18, 2010