Waycobah’s steelhead trout industry has received $1 million in funding from the federal Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to help expand its operations.
The First Nation band will use the money to buy cages, nets, moorings and a work barge, upgrade docks, perform electrical work and add a fish counter.
“We’re two-thirds of where we want to be in terms of growing our fish and harvesting,” Chief Rod Googoo said Friday.
“This money is going to allow us to go to 100 per cent where we want to be.”
The funding has been allocated through ACOA’s business development program, which supports small and medium-sized business and not-for-profits.
Waycobah will also invest $750,000 of its own operating revenues into the project. As a result, it will be able to grow one million fingerlings per year.
This is the second time in several months that the Waycobah project has received federal dollars. In January, Ottawa delivered $545,000 in grants to further develop the fish farm and upgrade its processing facility.
According to Googoo, the latest funding allocation will create 10 new jobs with wide-reaching economic impacts.
“When you have that many people employed you can imagine the spinoffs to the neighbouring areas,” said Googoo. “Everybody is now going out and buying cars or furniture, or stuff for kids. People have money now.”
Waycobah and a partner originally launched themselves into the trout fishery in 2012. Since taking sole ownership of the project three years ago, the band operation has grown from eight employees to 45.
Googoo said helping their continued expansion is the recent purchase of a fish hatchery in Wolfville, which will allow it to manage all aspects of raising trout.
The band had considered building its own hatching facility but was concerned with the length of time it would take to get the project off the ground.
Googoo said over the course of 2017 the band sold $2.6 million worth of steelhead trout. That number is expected to increase to $4 million by the year’s end. Projected figures for 2019 show revenues increasing to $15 million.
Googoo said their story is one of many reasons why Nova Scotia serves as an example of how First Nation communities and government can work together in a spirit of truth and reconciliation.
“I think the rest of Canada should come down,” he said. “They can learn a lot from us.”
In terms of selling the fish, Waycobah already has an agreement with Northern Harvest Sea Farm Ltd. for the purchase and marketing of all product harvested at the farm.
MP for Cape Breton-Canso Rodger Cuzner said the trout farm is a true success story.
“They’ve sort of found a real niche,” said Cuzner. “They’re good at it, they’re successful at it and this community has taken a great deal of pride in what they’re able to do with the aquaculture sector.”
According to government figures, last year there were 27 cages for market fish. That number is expected to increase to 92 cages over the next two years.