HALIFAX -- A panel has been created in Nova Scotia to recommend new regulations to govern the aquaculture industry by the end of next year, the provincial government announced Wednesday.

Aquaculture Minister Sterling Belliveau said the panel and a seven-member committee have been struck to come up with ideas on updating 15-year-old regulations for the sector.

Belliveau said the move is intended to encourage the growth of the aquaculture industry while protecting coastal communities.

"Our intent is to make sure that it is done in a sustainable manner, protecting the environment and yet creating good jobs in Nova Scotia," Belliveau said.

The panel will be led by two environmental law experts from Dalhousie University, Meinhard Doelle and William Lahey. They will be advised by a committee that includes representation from industry and environmental groups, the Mi'kmaq and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities.

Belliveau said the government will not approve any new applications for marine-based aquaculture sites until the new regulations are in place, with the exception of one application that has already been filed.

There has been opposition to open pen fish farming around Nova Scotia and several groups have asked for a moratorium until a full environmental assessment can be done.

Karen Traversy with the Coastal Coalition of Nova Scotia said the network of about 40 organizations is concerned about the government's intent to expand aquaculture in bays around the province.

But Traversy said her group welcomes the opportunity to be part of the advisory committee because of the reputations of those on the panel.

"Basically, the public and communities have lost confidence in the credibility of the regulatory regime we have now," she said. "We feel community views have to be known."

Bruce Hancock, executive director of the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia, said the industry also welcomes the chance to provide its input.

"Having some sort of predictability and certainty is a good thing for business and if we can gain more public acceptance, then that's a good thing too."

Belliveau said it will cost between $200,000 and $300,000 to set up the panel and committee. Public consultations are expected to begin this summer.