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November 2008

Scenes from Malpeque Bay

Prepared by:

VisionQuest

Sponsor Organization
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Management Committee Members

  • Bill Drost, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Richard Gallant, PEI Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Rural Development
  • Randy Angus, Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI
  • Laura Ramsay, PEI Fishermen’s Association
  • Linda Duncan, PEI Aquaculture Alliance
  • Frank Hanson, PEI Shellfish Association

VisionQuest Consultant Team

  • Derek MacEwen, VisionQuest Inc.
  • Sandra Gaudet, VisionQuest Associate
  • Hank Scarth, VisionQuest Associate

Disclaimer
The opinions and interpretations contained in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of Canada or the Management Committee. The authors were responsible for all interpretations of information provided.

Acknowledgments
Thank you to the following organizations and their representatives for their valued, essential input to this report:

  • Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI
  • PEI Fishermen’s Association
  • PEI Aquaculture Alliance
  • PEI Cultured Mussel Grower Association
  • Island Oyster Growers Group
  • PEI Shellfish Association
  • Independent mussel and oyster growers
  • Harbour Authorities: Malpeque Bay, Darnley Basis, and Milligan’s Shore
  • Malpeque Community Improvement Council
  • PEI Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Rural Development
  • PEI Department of Environment
  • Transport Canada
  • Environment Canada
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Table of Contents

1  Introduction
1.1  Study Objective
1.2  Study Context
1.3  Study Approach
1.4  About the Report
2  Findings
2.1  Opportunities
2.1.1  Aquaculture Industry Opportunities
2.1.2  First Nations Opportunities
2.2  Regulatory Requirements
2.2.1  Legal Basis for Aquaculture in PEI
2.2.2  Species at Risk Act
2.2.3  Riparian Rights
2.2.4  Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program
2.2.5  NWPA and CEAA
2.3  Issues and Risks
2.3.1  Fish and Fish Habitat
2.3.2  Water Quality
2.3.3  Aquatic Invasive Species
2.3.4  First Nations’ Fisheries and Interests
2.3.5  Commercial and Recreational Fisheries
2.3.6  Poor Aquaculture Operational Practices
2.3.7  Infrastructure
2.3.8  Migratory Birds
2.3.9  Impact on Property Owners and Recreational Boaters
2.3.10  SAECOP and Adaptive Management
2.3.11  Pace and Extent of Development
3  Conclusions
3.1  Opportunities
3.2  Regulatory Requirements
3.3  First Nations’ Interests
3.4  Commercial Fisheries
3.5  Property Owners and Recreational Boaters
3.6  Infrastructure
3.7  Environmental Issues
3.8  Industry Code of Practice and Adaptive Management
3.9  Environmental Assessment Process
3.10  Extent of Expansion
3.11  Potential Areas to Lease
3.12  Potential Areas to Avoid
3.13  Aquaculture Expansion Options
4  Recommendation
Appendix A – Malpeque Bay – Area Maps
Appendix B – Example – Interview Questionnaire

1.  Introduction

1.1  Study Objective

The objective of the Malpeque Bay Aquaculture Management Plan project was to explore the opportunity to further develop aquaculture in the Malpeque Bay, PEI, and assess the extent and pace that development should occur, if at all, by investigating and examining opportunities, risks, barriers, and issues.

1.2  Study Context

The economic impacts of shellfish aquaculture and related activities are substantial in Prince Edward Island. In 2007, cultured mussel, cultured oyster, and public oyster fishery production was valued at $28.5 million and reached 43.8 million pounds, of which 86% was generated by cultured mussels. The shellfish aquaculture industry provides employment to approximately 1,500 Islanders. Current shellfish aquaculture activity is limited to bays and estuaries and is reaching full capacity with current management techniques, available technology, and the demands of multiple water users. With approximately 7% of the water area in use for shellfish aquaculture, Malpeque Bay has been identified as having the potential for further aquaculture development.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada maintains the regulatory and management mandate over aquaculture leasing in Prince Edward Island. DFO has cooperated with other stakeholders to create the PEI Aquaculture Leasing Management Board. The Board has representation from both the aquaculture and shellfish industries, and both the provincial and federal government. One of the Board's mandates is to "provide direction and policy advice for the Aquaculture Leasing program". A moratorium has been in place since December 16, 1999 on the submission of any new applications for water column sites. In this context, the Board has recommended an Aquaculture Management Plan be developed for Malpeque Bay.

The Malpeque Bay Aquaculture Management Plan project is a vital, proactive, first step towards the assessment of the opportunity for further aquaculture development. Should further aquaculture development be pursued, any proposed development will require further planning and assessment and any individual applications will be subject to a full environmental assessment prior to approval of as required by the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

1.3  Study Approach

Fisheries and Oceans Canada engaged the services of VisionQuest Inc. for the completion of the Malpeque Bay Aquaculture Management Plan project. The consulting team was comprised of Derek MacEwen, Sandra Gaudet, and Hank Scarth.

A Management Committee provided strategic guidance and functional support for the project. The Management Committee included representatives from:

  • Mi'kmaq Confederacy of PEI
  • PEI Fishermen's Association
  • PEI Aquaculture Alliance
  • PEI Shellfish Association
  • PEI Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Rural Development
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Eighteen interviews of approximately two hours in length were conducted with stakeholder groups utilizing a pre-prepared questionnaire comprised of approximately thirteen questions adapted for each organization (see example in Appendix B). The questionnaire was aimed at identifying issues, risks, barriers, and opportunities associated with a bay management framework that was custom developed for the project to ensure all key components were addressed, including: the aquatic and terrestrial environment, the business environment of aquaculture and other fisheries, the social and cultural environment, infrastructure within the Bay, and the political and regulatory environment. Market supply and demand, product sales and marketing, non-marine-based industries, and ‘land-based’ issues, risks, and opportunities were excluded from the scope of the study.

The following stakeholder groups were consulted:

  • Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI
  • PEI Fishermen’s Association
  • PEI Aquaculture Alliance
  • PEI Cultured Mussel Grower Association
  • Island Oyster Growers Group
  • PEI Shellfish Association
  • Independent mussel and oyster growers
  • Harbour Authorities: Malpeque Bay, Darnley Basin, and Milligan’s Shore
  • Malpeque Community Improvement Council
  • Transport Canada
  • Environment Canada
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  • PEI Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Rural Development
  • PEI Department of Environment
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Secondary investigation was conducted that involved researching available information sources and reports relevant to the achievement of project objectives. Key reports reviewed included the:

  • Environmental Assessment Report for Water Column Aquaculture of Mussels, Oysters and Off-Bottom Aquaculture of Oysters in Malpeque West, East, South/Darnley Basin; Public Works and Government Services Canada, Environmental Services; 2002.
  • Replacement Class Screening Report for Water Column Oyster Aquaculture in New Brunswick; Report of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency; Transport Canada; 2007.
  • Prince Edward Island Shellfish Aquaculture Environmental Policy and Environmental Code of Practice (SAECOP); 2002.

Upon completion of the interviews and secondary research, the consultant team amalgamated and analyzed issues, risks, barriers, and opportunities in respect to:

  • regulatory barriers
  • environmental issues and risks
  • impacts on the existing harbour facilities
  • riparian and terrestrial activities that might impact expansion
  • impacts on existing fisheries in the Malpeque Bay
  • economic development and other opportunities
  • areas recommended and not recommended for future development.

After careful and thorough review of the project findings, the consultant team formulated the study conclusions and recommendations and produced the Malpeque Bay Aquaculture – the Way Ahead report.

1.4  About the Report

The Malpeque Bay Aquaculture – The Way Ahead report documents the results of the investigation, consultation and planning activity conducted over four month period from July 2008 to November 2008.

Section 2 – Findings provides a summary of issues, risks, barriers, and opportunities communicated to the consulting team during interviews with stakeholders.

Section 3 – Conclusions outlines the conclusions formulated by the consulting team after careful and thorough analysis of the outcomes of stakeholder interviews and secondary research.

Section 4 – Recommendations describes the consulting team recommendations pertaining to the potential expansion of aquaculture in Malpeque Bay.

Appendix A – Malpeque Bay – Area Maps portrays maps of current aquaculture zoning and current leases and spat licenses in the Bay, traditional commercial and First Nations lobster and oyster fishing areas, contaminated areas within the Bay, and areas designated as eel habitat and habitat for piping plovers.

Appendix B – Example – Interview Questionnaire provides an example of the interview questionnaire utilized to conduct interviews with stakeholders.

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2.  Findings

The Findings section provides a summary of issues, risks, barriers, and opportunities communicated to the consulting team during stakeholder interviews, as well as information gathered from documents and maps examined through the course of the review.

Key findings relevant to opportunities, barriers, issues and risks have been used to consider possible options for aquaculture expansion in Malpeque Bay, recommendations and suggested next steps.

Although some opportunities were identified relative to an expansion of aquaculture in Malpeque Bay, most of the stakeholders interviewed focused on concerns and suggested either no new development or a cautionary approach to more aquaculture.

2.1  Opportunities

Current shellfish aquaculture activity in Prince Edward Island is limited to bays and estuaries and is reaching full capacity with current management techniques, available technology, and the demands of multiple water users. With approximately 7% of the water area in use for shellfish aquaculture, Malpeque Bay has been identified as having the greatest potential for further aquaculture development in P.E.I.

Economic opportunities for First Nations and a wide range of industry stakeholders, including growers, buyers, and workers, include the potential to expand and create new markets while continuing to supply quality product in the existing markets… primarily for cultured mussels and oysters. In addition, some suggested that there may be new opportunities relative to finfish aquaculture, scallops, and quahogs, and the potential for eco-tourism in the Bay.

2.1.1  Aquaculture Industry Opportunities

Members of the Island aquaculture industry indicated that the primary positive impact of aquaculture (mussel and/or oyster) expansion in Malpeque Bay would be a corresponding expansion of the industry and associated economic benefits, including wealth creation and an increase in jobs within the sector as well as indirect employment created through industries that support aquaculture. For some, the goal is to change to ‘grow-out’ from spat licenses, and to expand their acreage. Others see the potential of moving mussel lease sites that are currently congested with tunicates to cleaner water. Some suggested that there would be limited opportunity for any off bottom culture because of the high winds in the Bay but that there is still some opportunity for bottom oyster aquaculture, primarily in the feeder river systems.

Although opinions varied on the process to follow for allocating any new aquaculture sites in Malpeque Bay, all interested stakeholders were concerned about fairness and transparency in the approach.

Some noted that expansion should go hand-in-hand with market demand for product and felt that current market conditions suggest that there may not be enough demand for additional production at this time but that there may be in the future. 

2.1.2  First Nations Opportunities

The development of a community-based social and economic framework is an objective for First Nations in P.E.I. to meet community needs and foster economic development. The goal of First Nations is to return to a historical restorative fisheries management model. Commercial fishing is one avenue that has been actively pursued – aboriginal fishers have typically focused on lobster as it is the species deemed to be most profitable. First Nations have fleet licenses that include licenses for other shellfish and marine species. The estuarial eel fishery is a traditional First Nations fishery with cultural significance – First Nations voluntarily do not currently harvest eel.

First Nations’ members believe that aquaculture development is strategic to the community’s economic viability and emphasized that job creation within the First Nations community is a key goal. They are interested in pursuing opportunities primarily for the off-bottom culturing of oysters. The Lennox Island First Nation purchased an 8 acre off-bottom (‘surface cage’) lease on the east coast of Lennox Island 3 years ago that has not yet been farmed, and plans to develop an off-bottom oyster lease on the west coast of Lennox Island. A goal is to produce their own oysters and process them at their Fishermen’s Pride processing facility. In addition, First Nations plan to evaluate the economic potential of finfish aquaculture. It was also suggested that ecotourism and local/nature experiences may create an opportunity for First Nations to partner with tourism operators around the Bay (e.g., a day of mussel or oyster fishing).

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2.2  Regulatory Requirements

The shellfish aquaculture industry is regulated by a number of federal and provincial statutes:

2.2.1  Legal Basis for Aquaculture in PEI

Prince Edward Island’s responsibility regarding aquaculture is unique among the provinces in that it is the only province where Aquaculture is the legal responsibility of the Government of Canada, administered through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. This authority dates back to the Federal Provincial Agreement of 1928, which allowed the Federal Government to grant leases to aquaculturists for growing oysters. In 1987 an Agreement for Commercial Aquaculture Development between the Government of Canada (represented by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans) and the Government of the Province of Prince Edward Island (represented by the Minister of Fisheries) reaffirmed the Federal Government's role in issuing leases for aquaculture. Although this authority rested with the Federal Government, the agreement also outlined the elements of "a mutual regime for the development and regulation of commercial aquaculture in Prince Edward Island.” Currently the P.E.I. aquaculture leasing program is administered under the direction of the PEI Aquaculture Leasing Management Board through a shared management and shared funding arrangement with funding from the Federal and Provincial Governments and the aquaculture industry. The Board has representation from both the aquaculture and shellfish industries, and both the provincial and federal governments.

2.2.2  Species at Risk Act

Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), restrictions may be introduced on where new aquaculture operations can be established. Areas of critical habitat may be designated “off limits,” and access to brood stocks may, in some areas, be subject to special controls or prohibitions. There may also be changes required to methods of predator control and waste disposal. In Malpeque Bay, one aquatic species that has been assessed as a species of special concern is the American eel and an avian species designated as endangered is the piping plover. In both instances their habitats would require protection.

2.2.3  Riparian Rights

Riparian rights are special rights of people who own land on the bank of a natural water course or body of water. One of these rights is the right of access for navigation. In 1999, the Province of Prince Edward Island passed legislation applicable to aquaculturists holding a bottom culture lease in existence at the time and recognized by DFO on an off bottom shellfish growing site. The riparian rights legislation (PEI Fisheries Act) states: “Every aquaculturist shall ensure that the aquaculturist’s operations in the area described in the lease are undertaken in a manner that ensures that no landowner having riparian rights is deprived of reasonable access to the waters adjacent to the landowner’s land.”  

2.2.4  Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program

The Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program is jointly administered by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Environment Canada (EC). The program’s primary objective is to protect the public from the consumption of contaminated shellfish by controlling the recreational and commercial harvesting of all shellfish within Canada. The CSSP restricts harvesting of shellfish from areas which are classified as contaminated or otherwise closed.

2.2.5  NWPA and CEAA

Any proposed aquaculture development would be subject to a full environmental assessment prior to the approval of new aquaculture leases… as required by the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). These statutes deal with the protection of navigable waters to ensure safe navigation and the assessment of potential adverse environmental effects associated with projects.

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2.3  Issues and Risks

A risk is any future event that could harm the Malpeque Bay environment and/or aquaculture development in the Bay – an issue is a current event or problem. All stakeholders interviewed identified issues and risks associated with aquaculture expansion as well as existing operations. In most instances a concern was presented as both an issue today and a risk for the future.

A major challenge in assessing the potential impact of either an issue or a risk was the divergence of opinion as to whether or not they were real or perceived issues or risks. In the absence of supporting data, in several instances, the consulting team recorded and evaluated all the issues and risks identified by the stakeholders and considered them to be important to those concerned and therefore important to the outcomes of the project. Environmental issues, in particular, will require further exploration and/or assessment prior to a determination of the extent of impact on the environment from any increased aquaculture activity. In some cases, conflicting viewpoints were seen as an issue itself. Following are the issues and risks of most concern to the majority of stakeholders:

2.3.1  Fish and Fish Habitat

Fish and fish habitat were identified as the primary environmental concern by most of the stakeholders interviewed. Many felt that the waters of Malpeque Bay provide a rich and varied habitat for a diversity of marine life that could be affected by increased shellfish aquaculture in the Bay, if not managed properly. Some felt that, regardless of management practices deployed, increased aquaculture would impact everything including, for example, changes to tidal water flow; spawning and migratory patterns, an increase in predators, and competition for food. Of primary concern for most fish harvestersis the potential impact on the lobster spawning areas of the Bay. It was suggested that the ‘nursery areas’ in the Bay, if impacted, could in turn impact the food chain and fisheries inside and outside the Bay. However, there were other stakeholders who indicated that any potentially negative effects from aquaculture would likely be minimal and reversible. In addition, some suggested that there were potential benefits provided by mussel aquaculture for fish and fish habitat primarily in terms of providing additional food for other species, including lobster.

2.3.2  Water Quality

The maintenance of marine water quality is essential to the long term viability of the Bay and many stakeholders noted concerns with potential negative effects with increased aquaculture. Marine water quality could be affected in a number of ways depending on the type of structures in the water, equipment utilized, species under cultivation, and growing or harvesting techniques. Some stakeholders have noted potentially negative effects including spills of oil and gas, bacteriological (e.g., bird deposition on aquaculture works) and viral pathogens (e.g., grey water or human waste), changes to the bottom with organic material from the mussels and treatment methods (e.g., lime and vinegar) for tunicates.


Other stakeholders suggested that, with appropriate management, in most cases there would be no negative impact of aquaculture on water quality, and in some instances there is actually a minor improvement in water quality. Relative to a key issue of food safety, results of regular water surveys indicate that water quality in Malpeque Bay has been relatively stable for the last five years; however, some areas are marginal…primarily at the edges of contamination closure lines.

2.3.3  Aquatic Invasive Species

Invasive species are defined as “species occurring beyond their accepted natural distribution as result of human activities and which threatens valued ecological resources by the damage they cause”. Four species of tunicates have been identified in PEI waters. Their ability to negatively impact the aquaculture industry can be attributed to several factors:

  • Rapid growth and early maturation
  • Long reproductive season on PEI (mid-June to early October)
  • Artificial structures, such as mussel lines, provide an excellent attachment and grow out substrate.
  • Tunicates have few or no natural predators that we know of in PEI.

Growers are concerned about the significant impacts of tunicates on their operations and a number of treatments are currently being used and assessed by industry and biologists across the Island. Given that tunicates are currently in the Bay and are likely to increase with any expansion of mussel aquaculture, other users, particularly commercial fish harvesters, are concerned about their potential impact and that of treatment methods (e.g. hydrated lime) on other species and on the quality of the water. PEI fish harvesters have further indicated that solitary and colonial tunicates, sea squirts and green crab are among the most environmentally destructive aquatic invasive species and most feared within the fishing industry.

2.3.4  First Nations’ Fisheries and Interests

First Nations on PEI have a major stake in Malpeque Bay and have indicated their interest in co-managing bay development along with DFO and other stakeholders. Protection of First Nations’ current and future rights to access in the Bay is paramount as is the sustainable management and use of the marine environment.

First Nations are currently active in commercial and food, social and ceremonial fisheries and shellfish aquaculture and see both the opportunities and risks of increased aquaculture within the Bay. For example, they are interested in pursuing off-bottom oyster or finfish aquaculture development, but are also concerned about impact on their fishery in the Bay. First Nations food, social and ceremonial fishery is a direct result of the 1990 Sparrow decision of the Supreme Court of Canada that specifies that the band has a right to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes. First Nations are concerned that increased aquaculture will impact the food, social and ceremonial fishery, primarily due to gear conflicts, and have stated that these areas must be avoided for development.

2.3.5  Commercial and Recreational Fisheries

Malpeque Bay supports commercial fish harvesters and recreational fishers that could be directly or indirectly impacted by increased aquaculture in the Bay. Direct socio-economic effects include those arising from a project such as the loss of fishing areas as a result of the issuance of an aquaculture lease. Indirect socio-economic effects are those attributable to changes in the environment such as the disruption or loss of fish habitat at a site that supports fisheries resources. Commercial fish harvesters and recreational fishers are concerned about both types of possibilities.

The most direct effect of increased aquaculture for commercial fish harvesters in the Bay would be the loss of available acreage in the Bay, with lobster being the dominant fishery. Commercial fish harvesters consulted have stated that “there is a strong historic background to this Bay, with over a century of fishing history and local knowledge passed down from fathers and grandfathers whose livelihoods depended on these very waters.  Currently there is a strong lobster fishery in this area, which generates significant economic stability and employment to surrounding rural areas.” Maps indicating traditional lobster fishing areas and local fishery officers confirm that most of the Bay is fished at different times throughout the lobster season.

These same commercial fish harvesters have stated that the negative environmental effect of greatest concern is the use of hydrated lime as treatment for tunicates in the Bay. They feel strongly that the information currently available is not sufficient to alleviate their concerns about the potential negative impacts resulting from the widespread use of lime.
From their perspective, rock crab, herring, smelts, eels, oysters, quahogs and clams are other species that could be affected by an increase in aquaculture. For example, with rock crabs  there is a potential for increased conflict with fish harvesters wanting to fish rock crab and aquaculturists wanting to keep them.

Oyster harvesters are very concerned about a serious negative impact of increased aquaculture (mussel or oyster) on their industry… particularly if there is an infringement on the Bideford River. They have noted that the Ellerslie Reserve is the most important location on PEI for oyster seed production (100% of the seed for enhancement of the public fishery and 80% for current oyster leases), and therefore is in need of ongoing protection. In addition, some stakeholders felt that the current level of mussel aquaculture in Malpeque Bay had contributed to major declines in oyster production in the Bay due to oysters being out-competed for nutrients and by being overwhelmed by the high abundance of mussel spat.

As a general comment, some stakeholders stressed that from a PEI economic development perspective, the expansion of one industry (i.e., aquaculture) should not be at the expense of another (e.g., commercial fishing).

2.3.6  Poor Aquaculture Operational Practices

A significant issue for a number of stakeholders, including property owners, harbour authorities and commercial fish harvesters, are the poor operational practices of some of the current growers within Malpeque Bay.  Concerns were expressed regarding: gear washed up on beaches; washing of socks on the wharves; submergence of marker buoys; floating quantities of rope; and, garbage around wharves.

2.3.7  Infrastructure

Harbour facilities in Malpeque Bay are currently operating at full capacity. Most stakeholders interviewed indicated that any additional aquaculture activity will significantly impact and exacerbate current problems with accessing facilities, such as wharves, socking facilities, lifts, roadways, and slips, and with dredging of the channel. It was suggested that planning for additional aquaculture sites must include requirements for the enhancement of harbour facilities. More traffic will mean more harbour usage and the location of new leased sites could create more infrastructure-specific issues.

2.3.8  Migratory Birds

Several stakeholders noted that migratory birds present concerns with regard to increased aquaculture from a number of perspectives. The first is the potential impact of new sites (mussel or surface oyster) on the habitat of waterfowl currently using Malpeque Bay during spring and fall migrations. Additional activity such as aquaculture has the potential to disturb seabirds, waterfowl and their habitat when anchoring equipment, accessing wharves, or ferrying supplies. The second is the potential attraction that additional perching areas and food sources will have for a variety of bird species, which could result in contamination or loss of shellfish product and/or issues arising from the use of scaring techniques.

Given the very high levels of waterfowl usage of Malpeque Bay during spring and fall migrations, Malpeque Bay has been designated as a Ramsar site, which highlights the area as a wetland of international importance. Although the Ramsar site designation does not impose any legislative or other requirements that would directly impact aquaculture expansion in the Bay, it does seek to ensure the sustainable, wise use of wetland resources and to ensure that all wetland resources are conserved, now and in the future. Environment Canada’s Ramsar site description for Malpeque Bay states that “There are few known threats to this area, however, further development of the upland fringe and increased shellfish farming could alter patterns of waterfowl use.”

2.3.9  Impact on Property Owners and Recreational Boaters

Although it was outside of the scope of this study to interview property owners and recreational boaters, potential issues were raised by some of the other stakeholders who were consulted. They noted that property owners and recreational boaters have a number of concerns related to aquaculture that need to be considered in the planning and approval of new aquaculture sites. Land and cottage owners are concerned primarily about their water access, navigation, property values, a deterioration of the aesthetics of their property, garbage on the shore, noise from canons used to scare sea ducks, and unauthorized use of their property for water access. Recreational boaters are concerned about loss of boating area and safe navigation… particularly with an increase in boating traffic and gear in the water. The type, location, and quantity of recreational boaters were not determined during the study.

2.3.10  SAECOP and Adaptive Management

The following two factors are issues of a different type. The development of the PEI Shellfish Aquaculture Environmental Code of Practice (SAECOP) and the establishment of the PEI Shellfish Aquaculture Environmental Adaptive Management Process were mitigation measures implemented to address potential negative environmental risk identified during a Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) assessment for the existing aquaculture sites in Malpeque Bay in 2002.

The following is taken from the Environmental Assessment Report for Water Column Aquaculture of Mussels, Oysters and Off-Bottom Aquaculture of Oysters in Malpeque West, East, South/Darnley Basin; February 2002.

“In conjunction with the mitigative features of existing policies and regulations, the two principal mitigation measures for the EA are the PEI Shellfish Aquaculture Environmental Code of Practice (SAECOP) and the PEI Shellfish Aquaculture Environmental Adaptive Management Process. The SAECOP establishes the environmental policy, environmental objectives and practices for aquaculture activities pertaining to site marking, spat collections, seeding, grow-out, harvesting, predator control, biofouling control, site maintenance, waste management, vehicle and vessel operation, decommissioning and contingency plans for accidental events. The environmental adaptive management process establishes a framework by which to ensure ecosystem integrity and promote sustainable aquaculture where ongoing and directed monitoring and research provides the information for direction of required management actions, including wastewater and fish/food processing effluent.”

Since then it appears that there is a willingness on the part of most growers to comply in whole or in part with SAECOP to minimize impacts on the environment, and it has been suggested that a lot of problems were remedied with this code of practice.  However, there is no regular monitoring and apart from periodic reminders from the PEI Aquaculture Alliance and random checks conducted by DFO to ensure lease usage/species and NWP markings, interventions are based primarily on complaints. The key challenge for industry and government stakeholders is ensuring compliance. In addition, regular updates are required to ensure SAECOP’s continued relevance. For example, aquatic invasive species are deemed to be the single greatest threat to the cultured mussel industry; however, the SAECOP does not incorporate processes associated with controlling aquatic invasive species.


To support the PEI Shellfish Aquaculture Environmental Adaptive Management Process, a committee was established to ensure ongoing and directed monitoring and research that was intended to provide the information for direction of required management actions. However, it was determined that some committee responsibilities were being fulfilled by the P.E.I. Aquaculture Leasing Management Board. Some believe that the committee struggled at times both in terms of practical workable research priorities and a lack of impact on management decisions. Given this situation and the overlap in mandate, it was recently decided that the Adaptive Management Process would become the responsibility of the P.E.I. Aquaculture Leasing Management Board and the DFO Chief, Oceans and Habitat was added to the Board’s membership.

2.3.11  Pace and Extent of Development

All the stakeholders interviewed suggested a cautionary approach in making a decision regarding an expansion of aquaculture in Malpeque Bay. Some stated that this should mean maintaining the status quo.

The Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association (PEIFA) stated: “The overwhelming majority of fishers who have voiced concerns and expressed their views on increased aquaculture to the association believe that the moratorium of new leases should be reinstated and therefore there are no areas of the Bay recommended by our fishers.”

Others, including the aquaculture industry, although supportive of increased aquaculture in the Bay, said it was critical to limit the acreage allowed for development and adopt a measured, “go slow” approach.

Some stakeholders suggested that experience in other areas has shown that leased acreage over 10% caused problems associated with navigation, cottage owners, and the environment (e.g., smelts, eels, lobster, birds, commercial fish harvesters, First Nations).

Another stated “Go slow and be cautious. Due diligence regarding the environment is paramount”.

Another stated: “We can never go back. If there is some potential for expansion, go through a measured approach. Be up-front on the plan – objectives and milestones”.

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3.  Conclusions

The Conclusions section outlines the conclusions formulated by the consulting team after careful and thorough analysis of stakeholder interview outcomes and secondary research.

3.1  Opportunities

Given that wild fish stocks are continuously decreasing worldwide, there should be an opportunity to expand aquaculture and create new markets for cultured shellfish, while continuing to supply product to meet growing demand in existing markets. Although important considerations for investors, issues such as market demand and the viability of expanding sites were not within the mandate of this study.

3.2  Regulatory Requirements

There are a number of statutes and policies that must be followed prior to the approval of any new aquaculture sites, mussel and/or oyster. These include: the P.E.I. Aquaculture Leasing Policy, the Species at Risk Act (SARA), Riparian Rights legislation (PEI Fisheries Act), the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA), and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA).

3.3  First Nations’ Interests

First Nations believe that aquaculture development is strategic and essential for their community’s economic development. They have emphasized, however, that any growth must not impact the environment nor infringe on First Nations’ current and future rights. First Nations wish to co-manage any Bay development along with DFO and other stakeholders, and have suggested that an expanded list of stakeholders be engaged in the process. In fact, they recommended that a full integrated management process be implemented for all land and water users of Malpeque Bay. It is imperative that First Nations interests are fully considered to better ensure the success of any new aquaculture development in the Bay.

3.4  Commercial Fisheries

Malpeque Bay is currently fished commercially by fish harvesters and of those consulted the overwhelming majority have stated that increased aquaculture in the Bay will negatively impact on their livelihood. For example, lobster harvesters interviewed stated that all areas in the Bay are fished. Maps indicating traditional lobster fishing areas and local fishery officers confirm that most of the Bay is fished at different times throughout the lobster season. Conflict for acreage with commercial fish harvesters is deemed to be a crucial issue to resolve. Consultation/negotiation with commercial fish harvesters is an essential step in any plan for expansion.

3.5  Property Owners and Recreational Boaters

Issues of concern to the property owners and recreational boaters, such as riparian access or navigation, could be addressed through the application of regulatory requirements. Other issues, such as the potential for noise from cannons for scaring sea ducks and for debris on beaches may be mitigated through the industry code of practice. Issues such as concern about aesthetics and property values are not regulated but may be addressed by locating sites as far away from properties as is feasible in consideration of optimal water depths, distance from shore etc.. It is important to ensure that an opportunity is afforded for these stakeholders to comment.

3.6  Infrastructure

There is currently pressure on existing harbour facilities that would be exacerbated with increased aquaculture in the Bay. Cooperation among harbour users for management, funding, liability and upkeep of facilities is considered a necessity by many stakeholders. Planning for additional aquaculture sites should include requirements for the enhancement of harbour facilities.

3.7  Environmental Issues

Environmental issues are those including but not limited to fish and fish habitat, water quality, aquatic invasive species, and migratory birds. All stakeholders are concerned about adverse effects of each as well as the potential cumulative effects on the environment. Of significant concern is the spread of invasive species and treatment methods. It is imperative that environmental risk and impacts are measured, tracked, and controlled during any new aquaculture development in Malpeque Bay.

3.8  Industry Code of Practice and Adaptive Management

Adaptive management and an industry code of practice are often utilized as mitigation measures for a number of potential negative effects identified during a CEAA assessment for aquaculture sites. However, given that these measures rely on voluntary compliance rather than regulatory enforcement, some stakeholders expressed concern that the measures have not always been effective in addressing issues with existing operations in Malpeque Bay.Of major concern to growers and non-growers alike is the fact that the two principal aquaculture areas in Malpeque Bay, March Water and Darnley Basin, are currently under significant pressure with problems related to density, growth and a high infestation of tunicates. Given the state of March Water and Darnley Basin, coupled with status of adaptive management and an industry code of practice, it is difficult for some to trust that new aquaculture expansion in the Bay will be managed properly.

3.9  Environmental Assessment Process

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) ensures that the environmental effects of projects involving the federal government are carefully considered early in project planning. Elements assessed include: project magnitude, geographic coverage, duration and frequency, reversibility, and ecological and/or socioeconomic context. Some projects are repetitive in nature and have predictable environmental effects. In these instances screenings can be addressed through the declaration and use of Class Screening Reports. A class screening is considered appropriate when, in the opinion of the CEA Agency, the class is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects when the design standards and mitigation measures described in the class screening report are applied.

A replacement class screening consists of a single report that defines a well understood class of projects and describes the associated environmental effects, design standards and mitigation measures for projects assessed within this class. The applicability of the Replacement Class Screening Report to the projects is based on the following six criteria:

  • well-defined class of projects
  • well-understood environmental setting
  • unlikely to cause significant adverse environmental effects
  • no project-specific follow-up measures required
  • effective and efficient planning and decision-making process
  • public concerns unlikely.

The Replacement Class Screening process implemented to manage water column oyster aquaculture expansion in New Brunswick is deemed to be a viable process warranting serious consideration for new aquaculture development in Malpeque Bay.

3.10  Extent of Expansion

Stakeholders who support aquaculture expansion in Malpeque Bay indicated that a cautious and paced approach is essential. The total water acreage of Malpeque Bay, including Darnley Basin is 48,530 acres of which 3462 acres, or approximately 7%, are currently leased for shellfish aquaculture. Although the consulting team found no hard data to suggest an optimal utilization of a body of water for shellfish aquaculture, a number of factors led to the conclusion that any potential expansion should be limited to a maximum of 10% of total bay acreage. These included the need to be cautious particularly in light of the level of concern raised by a number of stakeholders and experience in other bays with slow product growth, diminished food yields, spread of tunicates and conflicts with multiple users. Another key consideration was the fact that the replacement class screening process under CEAA requires that the class of projects under review be considered low risk. Shellfish aquaculture acreage over 10% in a given bay may be deemed to be a higher risk and therefore ineligible for the replacement class screening process. A 10% maximum in Malpeque Bay would mean that 3%, or approximately 1456 acres, could potentially be leased for new mussel and/or oyster aquaculture sites.

3.11  Potential Areas to Lease

The P.E.I. Aquaculture Zoning System was established in late 1980. The current aquaculture zoning for Malpeque Bay identifies areas potentially available for aquaculture in the Bay and its tributaries.  Appendix A contains the current zoning map titled ‘Aquaculture Zones’. Also included in Appendix A is a map titled ‘Aquaculture Leases’, which portrays current lease and spat license acreage in the Bay.

A review of the Aquaculture Zones map suggests a large area of the Bay that could potentially be developed for aquaculture However, it must be noted that the zoning, although important to the decision making process, is not the only factor considered in the lease approval process.

The P.E.I. Aquaculture Zoning System uses paired letters to reflect the method of culture and availability (not suitability) of the water area represented. The first letter of the pair is for bottom culture and the second letter of the pair is for off bottom (water column) culture.

  • “A” denotes an area that is considered acceptable for aquaculture activities. No obvious impediments have been identified in these areas.
     
  • “B” denotes an area that is conditional, that is, requiring further review. Some potential conflicts and/or obstacles may have been identified in these areas.
     
  • “C” denotes an area closed to shellfish aquaculture or an automatic denial. This would be based on the determination of obstacles such as a government wharf, dredge spoil site, provincial park, public fishing grounds, federal lands, interference with navigation or heavy recreational usage.
     
  • “Bo” is a designation used only in relation to off bottom culture for oysters and applicable only to bottom leases applied for or approved by July 12, 2006. It denotes an area that is closed to mussel culture but conditional for off bottom oyster culture.

3.12  Potential Areas to Avoid

Through the interview process, stakeholders identified a number of areas to avoid in the event of any expansion of aquaculture in Malpeque Bay. It is imperative that these areas be considered when assessing or executing expansion. Appendix A contains maps that portray the areas. The following table lists alphabetically all areas identified by all stakeholders, and provides the associated reference map, where available.

Area

Appendix A Reference Map

Barbara Weit River

Identified Areas

Bideford

Identified Areas

Contaminated areas

Contamination Zones

Conway Narrows

Identified Areas

Darnley Basin

Identified Areas

Eel habitat

Potential SARA Habitat

First Nations fishing areas

First Nations – Lobster and Oyster Fishing Areas

Indian River

Identified Areas

Lobster nursery areas

No map available

March Water

Identified Areas

Migratory bird habitat

No map available

Municipal sewage treatment plants

No map available

Navigation channels

No map available

Piping plover habitat

Potential SARA Habitat

Provincial parks

Identified Areas

Riparian rights zones

No map available

Shoals

No map available

Traditional public fishing areas

Traditional Commercial Lobster Fishing Areas

Water lot

Aquaculture Leases and Spat Licenses

Wharves

Identified Areas

3.13  Aquaculture Expansion Options

Based on stakeholder feedback, the following two options were identified relative to aquaculture expansion in Malpeque Bay:

  • Option 1
    No further expansion of aquaculture in Malpeque Bay. Maintain the moratorium into the foreseeable future. Whenever there is a potential for negative impacts on the environment as a result of a particular activity, one option is not to allow the activity at all.
     
  • Option 2
    A well-planned, responsibly-paced, managed expansion of aquaculture in Malpeque Bay. Ensure limitations on the amount of acreage leased for aquaculture. Expansion should be phased in over time. Incorporate a fully consulted management plan to address major issues and risks.

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4.  Recommendation

Although there would be a number of challenges in the expansion of shellfish aquaculture in Malpeque Bay, the consulting team believes it is possible to optimize the water, support the co-existence of a number of activities with aquaculture, and expand responsibly with the cooperation and commitment of all interested stakeholders. It is therefore recommended that Fisheries and Oceans Canada, through the PEI Aquaculture Leasing Management Board, implement a well-planned, responsibly-paced, managed expansion of aquaculture in MalpequeBay by taking the following steps.

Each step should include the incorporation of performance objectives and associated metrics for measurement. Upon completion of a given step, outcomes should be evaluated against the performance objectives. Should performance objective not be met, expansion of aquaculture should be halted until such time that corrective action is taken.

Step 1:  Stabilize current shellfish production and stewardship

  • Update the PEI Shellfish Aquaculture Environmental Code of Practice (SAECOP) and develop a monitoring and compliance structure to support and enforce it.
  • Recommit to the PEI Shellfish Aquaculture Environmental Adaptive Management Process by developing a procedure and an accountability framework to ensure achievement of goals and the required commitment of stakeholders. Priority should continue to be given to research into treatment for aquatic species with increased attention to the use of hydrated lime for treating tunicates. Results of this research should ensure evidence based decision making for managing the tunicate problem and its mode of treatment.
  • Develop management plans that focus on March Water and Darnley Basin to correct current problems with over capacity and less than optimal operational practices.

No new aquaculture development should occur until effective and enforceable measures are in place and there is improved compliance with the above by existing leaseholders.

Step 2:  Establish the MalpequeBay Aquaculture Management Plan

  • Establish the CEAA Replacement Class Screening Process, or similar process.
  • Confirm the maximum expansion of aquaculture in the Bay (3% additional acreage).
  • Define areas with potential for aquaculture development (mussels and/or oysters) and finalize through a consultative process with major stakeholders.
  • Establish the policy, processes, and decision-making framework for allocating new acreage, which is transparent and fair, and considers all the available options, stakeholder needs and expectations, as well as factors, including but not limited to, market demand, labour supply, environmental risk, and competing interests.
  • Establish the Malpeque Bay Aquaculture Management Plan to manage new acreage and all existing aquaculture in the Bay. Sign-off on this plan should be mandatory for any applicant prior to having a lease issued or renewed in Malpeque Bay.

Step 3:  Responsibly paced, managed expansion of aquaculture in MalpequeBay

  • Implement the expansion of aquaculture in the Malpeque Bay utilizing a multi-year, phased-in approach to allow for observations and adjustment, especially regarding issues of conflict with other users, spread of invasive species, and water quality.

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Appendix A – Malpeque Bay – Area Maps

Map showing Malpeque Bay aquaculture zones


 

Map showing Malpeque Bay aquaculture leases and spat licenses


 

Map showing Malpeque Bay Identified areas


 

Map showing Malpeque Bay contamination zones


 

Map showing Malpeque Bay potential SARA habitat


 

Map showing Malpeque Bay First Nations lobster and oyster fishing areas


 

Map showing Malpeque Bay traditional commercial lobster fishing areas


 

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Appendix B – Example – Interview Questionnaire

The objective of the Malpeque Bay Aquaculture Management Plan project is to explore the opportunity to further develop aquaculture in Malpeque Bay, and assess the extent and pace that development should occur, if at all, by investigating and examining opportunities, risks, barriers, and issues. To this end, the project is soliciting input from key stakeholders, including the PEI Oyster Growers Group. For additional project background information, please refer to the MBAMP Project Overview that was distributed with this questionnaire.
The primary goal of the interview is to identify and assess issues, risks, opportunities, and barriers for aquaculture development in Malpeque Bay. We have developed the following assessment framework to help ensure the key elements of aquaculture development are addressed:

Bay Management Assessment Framework

Aquatic environment

Aquaculture business environment

Social and cultural environment

Terrestrial environment

Other fisheries - business environment

Infrastructure environment

 

Political and regulatory environment

 

The below set of questions are based on the bay management assessment framework, tailored to your organization, where possible. Depending on how you respond to the questions, you may conclude that there is overlap between responses. Overlap is acceptable – our aim is to ensure that you have the opportunity to identify all key, priority issues, risks, opportunities, and barriers, regardless if one can be associated with more than one framework element!

Questions:

  1. Please provide a concise overview of your mandate and/or needs and expectations, relative to potential aquaculture development in Malpeque Bay.
     
  2. In respect to the cultured mussels, from a business and/or economic development perspective, what are key issues, risks, opportunities and/or barriers that are directly or indirectly related to aquaculture development in the Bay, for such aspects as:
     
    • Spat collection/mussel grow out
    • Growth
    • Mortality
    • Disease
    • Predators
    • Harvesting
       
  3. In respect to the cultured oysters, from a business and/or economic development perspective, what are key issues, risks, opportunities and/or barriers that are directly or indirectly related to aquaculture development in the Bay, for such aspects as:
     
    • Reproduction and early development
    • Spat collection
    • Growth
    • Mortality
    • Disease
    • Predators
    • Harvesting
    • Enhancement
       
  4. In respect to the aquatic ecosystem as a whole (shellfish, finfish, rare or endangered species, vegetation, invasive species, competition, predators/pollution/pesticides), what are key issues, risks, opportunities and/or barriers that are directly or indirectly related to aquaculture development and the environmental sustainability of the Bay?
     
  5. In respect to the terrestrial ecosystem as a whole (birds and other wildlife, vegetation, rare and endangered species), what are key issues, risks, opportunities and/or barriers that are directly or indirectly related to aquaculture development and the environmental sustainability of the Bay?
     
  6. In respect to the marine and estuarial fisheries sectors, from a business and/or economic development perspective, what are key issues, risks, opportunities and/or barriers that are directly or indirectly related to aquaculture development in the Bay?
     
  7. In respect to an aquaculture finfish sector, what are key issues, risks, opportunities and/or barriers that are directly or indirectly related to aquaculture development in the Bay?
     
  8. In respect to the broader cultural, heritage, and social environment (First Nations, cottage/home owners, aesthetics, riparian rights, recreational boating/fishing/hunting/safety/other), what are key issues, risks, opportunities and/or barriers that are directly or indirectly related to aquaculture development in the Bay?
     
  9. In respect to the political and regulatory environment (navigation, regulatory [leased commercial licenses, seasonal, spat collection licenses, approved/closed areas, communal/aboriginal licenses, bottom/water column/off-bottom/surface leases], enforcement, legal, economic development-based, constituency-based), what are key issues, risks, opportunities and/or barriers that are directly or indirectly related to aquaculture development in the Bay?
     
  10. In respect to the Bay’s supporting infrastructure (harbour facilities, navigation), what are key issues, risks, opportunities and/or barriers that are directly or indirectly related to aquaculture development in the Bay?
     
  11. What areas of the Bay have the greatest potential for oyster and/or mussel aquaculture development and why? What areas of the Bay should be avoided for oyster aquaculture development, and why?
     
  12. What pace of aquaculture development is appropriate given social, environmental and industry considerations?
     
  13. Do you have (or are you aware of) any documentation, such as reports, studies, charts or other materials, which are directly or indirectly related to aquaculture development in the Bay? If so, are you aware of any relevant issues, risks, or opportunities?
     
  14. Have you examples of Bay Management Planning? What are the key components you see as necessary for an effective BMP in Malpeque Bay? What are the evident constraints?
     
  15. Are there any initiatives, planned or active, that are directly or indirectly related to aquaculture development in the Bay? If so, are you aware of any relevant issues, risks, or opportunities?

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