YARMOUTH, N.S. – While there were no real surprises in the findings, for the first time lobster fishermen’s concerns about the impact of finfish aquaculture on the lobster fishery have been documented in a scientific manner.
Released in 2015, the study – Defining Lobster Fishermen’s Concerns about the Impact of Finfish Aquaculture on Lobsters and Lobster Fishing Communities in Nova Scotia: A Pilot Study – was funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and conducted by the Université Sainte-Anne Laboratory of Innovation in Science and Industry.
Study co-ordinator and co-author Roger Gervais gave an overview of the report and its significance at this fall’s South West Lobster Forum in Yarmouth. Dr. Mohammadi Kaouass also co-authored the report.
This pilot study has two objectives. The first is to develop a clear and concise understanding of what concerns are most pressing for the Nova Scotia lobster industry with regard to finfish aquaculture, especially in southwestern Nova Scotia. The second is to help set the foundation for future studies according to these concerns.
“These research programs are to form the backbone of systematic, scientific answers to lobster fishermen’s concerns about the impact of finfish on lobster,” Gervais said.
Gervais said 33 lobster fishermen in 10 communities in five counties that are part of LFAs (Lobster Fishing Areas) 33, 34, and 35 (Queens, Shelburne, Yarmouth and Digby and Annapolis) took part in face-to-face interviews, or in one of the five focus groups. It was an open and transparent process, giving researchers insight into lobster fishermen’s environmental concerns and socio-political concerns that are “now documented as something representative of the fishermen,” said Gervais.
The study recommended to government three research programs based on lobster fishermen and key community stakeholders’ concerns about and perceptions of net-pen finfish aquaculture, said Gervais, including an evaluation of standard operating procedures for site management with respect to fishermen’s concerns; an evaluation of the socio-economic effects of aquaculture in Nova Scotia; and the impact of farm discharges, including organic waste (uneaten deed and feces) inorganic waste (dissolved nutrients), pesticides, and heavy metals ln the benthic habitat, lobster populations and other organisms.
Since the pilot study was released, the province has been working with the Université Saint-Anne, with advice from the Aquaculture Science Advisory Committee, to design and execute field projects to help address common concerns, said Chrissy Matheson, spokesperson for the provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
“This work is ongoing, and we are committed to sharing the results with fishermen as they become available,” she said.
“Sound scientific research takes time to plan, prepare and execute. This project involves several project collaborators, regulatory authorizations and a specific timeline for execution. It was important that there was a high degree of confidence in the project design and it has taken time to reach an understanding and agreement between the people involved in the project,” Matheson said. “In addition, once the final experimental design was determined, there were several aspects of the project that required authorizations from other government departments and that too took time. The design and authorizations were completed this summer, and the exciting field work will begin in the spring.”
Matheson said there has been a lot of good work done on addressing lobster/fish farming interactions in Atlantic Canada, but the province would like to address the specific concerns raised by Nova Scotia lobster fishermen.
“Understanding and addressing the concerns of lobster fishermen and others regarding finfish aquaculture is important to our department,” she said.
FYI: Specific areas of concern raised by fishermen included:
• the impact of heavy metals and antifouling agents (i.e. copper, zinc, cadmium) contained in feed on benthic vertebrates;
• the impact of pesticides used for treatment of sea lice on benthic invertebrates;
• the reproductive ability and health of adult and larval lobster near salmon farms, pesticide accumulation in lobsters and other non-target organisms, wild salmon reproduction and mortality in rivers adjacent to salmon net pen farms, proliferation of fish and shellfish as well as human pathogens in the aquatic environment;
• the impact of organic waste (uneaten feed and feces) on the benthic environment beneath and surrounding farm site;
• and the impact of nutrient enrichment due to heavy loading or organic and inorganic farm waste on the marine environment, specifically with respect to the occurrence of algal blooms and low oxygen levels.
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