Meta-analysis of freshwater aquaculture provincial water quality monitoring data



Recent increases in finfish production in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia have prompted regulators to look at strategies for managing freshwater aquaculture, in particular ones that take into consideration ecosystem carrying capacity which is tightly coupled with the phosphorus released in finfish aquaculture waste (Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat - CSAS 2014). Since 2000 in Ontario, a water quality monitoring program is a condition of aquaculture licenses to ensure that the release of phosphorus from finfish farms does not exceed regulatory thresholds. One of the primary environmental concerns restricting the expansion of the freshwater finfish cage industry is the ability of the environment to assimilate waste, in particular phosphorus. In freshwater, phosphorus influences the biomass of primary producers, including algae and phytoplankton. If excessive amounts of phosphorus are released into freshwater ecosystems this can result in algal blooms and pose a risk of eutrophication causing reductions in deep-water oxygen concentrations that can bring about changes in benthic habitats and community structure.

The goal of this project is to conduct a meta-analysis of the water monitoring data collected since 2000 through the Ontario Water Quality Monitoring program. The underlying questions address whether there is evidence that the cage aquaculture industry in Ontario contributes to increased total phosphorus concentrations in receiving waters, and if there has been an increase in total phosphorus over time that would suggest cumulative effects. Given the link between the assimilation of phosphorus (from aquaculture waste) and carrying capacity, the results of this project will provide further insight on the relationship between freshwater ecosystem carrying capacity and sustainable growth of freshwater aquaculture, and will help to inform the sustainable management of the freshwater cage aquaculture industry.





Program Name

Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)


2014 - 2015


Central Canada: Mackenzie River, Delta

Principal Investigator(s)

Cheryl Podemski
Research Scientist, Environmental Sciences Division, Freshwater Institute
501 University Crescent, Winnipeg, Manitoba