First Nation buys old Whycocomagh arena to expand fish farm

We'koqma'q First Nation has bought the old arena in nearby Whycocomagh to provide storage space for equipment used in its growing rainbow trout farm.

We'koqma'q purchases arena in Inverness County tax sale to store equipment used in nearby rainbow trout farm

The Whycocomagh arena, which sits on 2.5 hectares of land west of the community, has been purchased at a tax sale by We'koqma'q First Nation. The band plans to use the building to store equipment for its nearby trout farm. (Google Streetview)

Nova Scotia's We'koqma'q First Nation has bought the old Whycocomagh arena to expand the band's fish farm.

We'koqma'q got $1 million last month from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and is putting in $750,000 of its own to double its production of rainbow trout this year.

We'koqma'q harvested 70,000 rainbow trout in 2016 and 170,000 fish last year. The band expects that will grow to more than 400,000 this year.

The community is adding 37 cages to its trout farm in Bras d'Or Lake, bringing the total to 64 this year. By next year, there will be 92 fish cages in the water.

The band picked up the old arena at an Inverness County tax sale and plans to use it for storage, said Chief Rod Googoo.

Our main interest in that building is we need space, we need storage, and that's a perfect fit for what we're doing with the expansion of our fisheries.- We'koqma'q First Nation Chief Rod Googoo

"The last few years, we've been really working hard toward the expansion of our fisheries operation, our fish farm," he said. "But our main interest in that building is we need space, we need storage, and that's a perfect fit for what we're doing with the expansion of our fisheries.

"We need a huge area to store our feed, to store some of our equipment. We have to be able to clean our nets as we take them out of the waters. We need that space real bad."

The arena is located on Highway 395 west of Whycocomagh, about seven kilometres from the band's fish farm in the Bras d'Or Lake.

Inverness County's tax sale web page says the taxes owing were $7,001.35, and the property was purchased for $55,000.

Commercial assessment exceeds $240,000

According to online property records, the arena sits on 2.5 hectares of land. The total assessed value is $244,700 and the property is taxed at the commercial rate.

The arena was owned by the Consolidated Recreation Association, which is listed as having defaulted on the Registry of Joint Stock Companies in 2014.

According to the tax sale rules, the previous owner still has six months to redeem the property by paying its back taxes.

But Googoo said that's not likely, as the recreation association no longer exists.

The fish farm will provide increased jobs and band revenue as it grows, the chief said.

The future, for my community anyway, lies in the fisheries, especially the fish farm.- Chief Googoo

"The future, for my community anyway, lies in the fisheries, especially the fish farm, because looking at the reports put out this morning by the United Nations, one-third of the oceans are being overfished, and fish consumption is at its highest, so we see a market going down that way," Googoo said.

Northern Harvest Sea Farm of New Brunswick and Newfoundland sells all of the band's farmed trout.

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About the Author

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 32 years. He has spent the last 14 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

With files from Information Morning Cape Breton

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