06/04/2012 11:15 EDT | Updated 08/04/2012 05:12 EDT

Long-term effect of DFO budget cuts still unclear

The Federal Fisheries Minister says it's too soon to know the full effect of budget cuts at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Approximately 1,000 workforce adjustment letters have been issued to employees at the Department of Fisheries. Minister Keith Ashfield said about 400 positions will be eliminated.

In Dartmouth Monday, Minister Keith Ashfield was asked about the fate of several Nova Scotia programs, as well as internationally renowned scientist Ken Lee.

Lee runs the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. The centre is where the United States government turned when it needed help with the gulf oil blowout.

He's been given a workforce adjustment notice and Ottawa has confirmed it's phasing out his program.

Ashfield suggested some of Lee's work could be done privately.

"There's work that can be done through private companies," said Ashfield. "We're investing money in those areas as well. But in terms of overall impact at this point, it's difficult to say what it might be."

The government is also closing down its captive breeding program for the endangered Atlantic whitefish. The world's surviving wild population is confined to three lakes in Lunenburg County.

But Ashfield said there was no need to continue the breeding program since a lake in Dartmouth has been stocked with whitefish raised in captivity.

"We don’t feel that we have to provide the rearing services at the hatchery anymore because of that operation."

This was Ashfield's first visit to the province since budget cuts were announced. He visited a galvanized steel facility to promote the Conservative government's push for less regulation in resource development.

"Our top priority has always been to promote jobs and sustain Canada's economy," he said.

Ashfield said he expects the federal government will continue to play a role in overseeing the development of aquaculture.