WHYCOCOMAGH: A local First Nation’s community received an economic boost from the federal government.
Last week, the federal government announced $545,000 in non-repayable contributions for two projects at Waycobah First Nation. The projects involve expanding the local steelhead trout growing operation and upgrades to the processing facility.
Waycobah Chief Rod Googoo said the community is proud of its work in diversifying its economy, noting the project has growth potential.
“It’s going to give us an opportunity to upgrade and expand our facilities, which in turn is going to allow us to generate more revenue and create more employment for our people,” said Googoo. “We’ve already established our fish farm and we’ve already established our processing plant. This money will come in handy in helping us to upgrade and expand and purchase some of the equipment that we need.”
Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner, made the announcement on behalf of Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) Minister Navdeep Bains, with funding coming through ACOA’s Business Development Program, which supports small and medium-sized enterprises and not-for-profit organizations.
The Province of Nova Scotia also contributed $140,000 to the trout farm expansion project through the Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board. The Ulnooweg Development Group provided $259,000 in grants, as well as a $100,000 loan, while the Waycobah Band Council is investing $135,000 in the expansion from revenue generated at the fish farm.
Googoo said the fish farm employs close to 15 or 16 people year-round, and during processing from July to December, they employed another 25-26 people.
“We’re looking at maybe, three years down the road, we’ll be able to employ maybe 70 total between the two operations,” said Googoo. “Plus we also purchased a fish hatchery down in the Valley. It will allow us to have complete control, from growing the fingerlings from eggs and putting them right into our fish farm. It gives us complete control of the total operation right from the start to the finish.”
A release from the federal government stated the income generated from the venture will go back into the community for future economic activities. The release also stated the local band has an agreement with Northern Harvest Sea Farms to purchase and market the farm’s product while the band plans to upgrade its facilities until it is capable of growing, harvesting and processing four-pound fillets on a year-round basis.
“Right now, they produce about one million pounds annually,” said Cuzner. “They’re looking at going into three million pounds annually. They’ve got some great partnerships. This is so completely aligned with the template we have to grow the economy. I think Waycobah has proven to be strong in the aquaculture sector and this will allow them the chance to be even more viable and sustainable going forward.”