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More good news coming for St. Mary’s, hints local MP

SHERBROOKE – As the new home of North America’s first beluga whale sanctuary, the District of St.

SHERBROOKE – As the new home of North America’s first beluga whale sanctuary, the District of St. Mary’s is well on its way to becoming a world leader in job-generating ecotourism, says Central Nova Member of Parliament Sean Fraser, hinting he’ll have more “positive news” for the area within weeks. 

In an email last week, Fraser stated the whale project “in combination with Sherbrooke Village, the St. Mary’s Salmon Association, and the Rural Institute of Cultural Heritage and Environmental Sustainability, has the potential to put the (area) on the map as an example of how conservation and eco-tourism can create good jobs. . .Things like this can only happen in small communities when local residents create a groundswell of support to communicate that they are open to trying something new.”

In an interview with The Journal last month, he said, “It’s often I’ll find myself in (the St. Mary’s area) several times a month. I usually try to build my business around news I have to share in the constituency. We will have some positive news in the area to share this spring.” 

Though it’s unlikely the upcoming announcement is connected to the whale project – which was unveiled at a press conference in Halifax last week – one of Fraser’s staff confirmed in an email that “March 28, he’s in Port Bickerton for a supper (and) on May 18, he’s doing a school visit on St. Mary’s.” 

Commenting on Port Hilford’s designation as the site of the California-based Whale Sanctuary Project’s (WSP) refuge for as many as eight beluga whales who have either been retired from entertainment facilities or rescued from the ocean and need rehabilitation or permanent care, Fraser said: “Just because we come from a small community does not mean we cannot do big things.” 

He added that the plan comes in the wake of the Canadian Parliament passing Bill S-203 (2019) to bring an end to keeping whales and dolphins captive for entertainment purposes. “Having a new home will deeply benefit the belugas, who will enjoy a new environment akin to a natural habitat, and will demonstrate that Canada is a leader in the fair treatment of animals,” he said.

Fraser – who is parliamentary secretary to Minister of Finance Bill Morneau – is on record supporting environmentally benign forms of economic development for his constituency. “I’ve worked closely with the St. Mary’s River Association to invest just shy of $2 million in a restoration project that’s designed to help restore critical salmon habitats, and could bring back salmon populations,” he said in the interview. 

“It’s not unreasonable to think that one day, by investing in projects like those, both the St. Mary’s River and the West River in Sheet Harbour, the population (of Atlantic salmon) could one day return where a sport-fishing and tourism economy could grow in the area.”

Regarding the whale project, he said in the email: “I’m thrilled that the proponent of this project (WSP) would choose a community in rural Nova Scotia for such an exciting endeavour.”

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal

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