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Chinese conglomerate explores possible fishery investment

Lobster boats head to drop their traps from Digby, N.S. on Saturday. When police confirmed two fishing boats had been torched earlier this week in western Nova Scotia, a simmering dispute over the province's Indigenous lobster fishery suddenly took on a new sense of urgency.  ©THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
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A Chinese conglomerate is exploring major investments in Pictou County’s fishing industry that may create dozens of local jobs if they go ahead.

Representatives from the Beijing-based Hong Yuan Holdings Group met with Cape John Seafoods and other stakeholders including local politicians Thursday to explore potential investment opportunities.

While talks are still in the preliminary stage, Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane said that the numbers discussed were in the millions.

“My vision is to let the Asian market know that Nova Scotia is home to business when it comes to seafood and exploring new species that are highly in demand in the Asian market, such as sea cucumber,” said MacFarlane.

Cape John typically handles lobsters and MacFarlane said that a new investment will likely involve upgrades to infrastructure like processing systems, which will allow the handling and storage of more product.

The talks with Hong Yuan come at a time when Nova Scotia’s seafood industry is worth $1.6 billion, according to MacFarlane.

“We have to rely on those industries that are quite sustainable,” said MacFarlane, noting that she spoke to someone whose family have been fishermen for five generations.

However, climate change remains a potential danger for Nova Scotian fisheries.

The province says that climate change will affect sea temperatures, ocean acidification, sea ice coverage, nearshore and beach areas, rivers used for feeding and spawning, coastal erosion of protective salt marshes and barrier dune systems. All of these have direct impacts on marine life.

Warmer water temperatures may render marine animals such as salmon, capelin, and cod increasingly vulnerable to competitors and parasites. Increased sediment in precipitation runoff may also challenge other commercial fish stocks like crab, lobster, salmon and other fin fish.

In response, the province says that fisheries and fish farms must be diversified with a focus on marine life that is resilient to climate change’s effects.

“It’s pretty hard to win a battle with Mother Nature,” said MacFarlane.

She added that no fisherman or woman told her that climate change was putting them in jeopardy, speaking instead of record catches.

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