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Canadian Aquaculture R&D Review 2009

Finfish - Freshwater

Researchers quantify nutrient fluxes from fish farms in fresh water

Perceived risk of altering the trophic status of lakes is currently limiting the development of Canadian freshwater aquaculture. This perception persists despite the operation of fish farms and extensive environmental monitoring by farms in the North Channel for more than 20 years. They have yet to document detectable increases in nutrient concentrations. At the same time there is a lack of sound scientific knowledge regarding aquaculture's potential effects on receiving waters and sediments.

Organic loading from fish cage farms increases the total nutrient content of the sediments and it can also increase the concentration of soluble forms that can be released into the overlying water. However, the fate of those nutrients (burial or release back to the water column) and the factors regulating that fate in sediments affected by aquaculture wastes are poorly understood. Researchers are conducting investigations to quantify the effects of sediment chemistry and water temperature on the nutrient release rates from the sediments affected by fish wastes.

Duration: Mar 07– Mar 08

Funded by: DFO-ACRDP. Co-funded by: Aqua-cage Fisheries Ltd

Project team: Paula Azevedo (DFO), Cheryl Podemski (DFO), M. Robin Anderson (DFO), Gord Cole (Aqua-cage Fisheries Ltd)

For information contact: Paula Azevedo (

In situ N and P fluxes measurement

Ontario team investigates what happens to rainbow trout that escape net pens

In the North Channel of Lake Huron farmed rainbow trout are being marked and released to emulate both small- and large-scale ‘escape events’. Through the release of small numbers of farmed rainbow trout outfitted with telemetry transmitters, scientists hope to determine the spatial extent of escapee movements and their potential for interaction with native fish species based on habitat selection.

Summer 2008 field season in the North Channel (Photo: K. Boulton)

In the summer of 2008, the team implanted farmed rainbow trout with telemetry transmitters and released equal numbers of fish (20) at two farms. Preliminary results show that many of the escaped fish remained in close proximity to the farms, and also that these fish were susceptible to predation and angling.

In the 2009 field season, researchers plan to extend the telemetry research and conduct large-scale releases of farmed rainbow trout (1000 at each farm). Recapture data is expected to provide survival and growth rates for escaped fish, which are critical to understanding the potential impacts on native fisheries and food webs.

Duration: Jul ‘08 – Mar ’11

Funded by: DFO-ACRDP. Co-funded by: Meeker’s Aquaculture Canada Inc., North Wind Fisheries Ltd.

Project team: Paul Blanchfield (DFO), Doug Geiling (DFO), Tom Johnston (Laurentian U/OMNR), Kristen Patterson (MSc student, U of Manitoba), Lori Tate (DFO), Chris Wilson (Trent U/OMNR), Dan Glofcheskie (North Wind Fisheries Ltd.), Mike Meeker (Meeker’s Aquaculture Canada Inc.)

For information contact: Paul Blanchfield (

Project investigates effectiveness of constructed wetlands for treating aquaculture waste

Source water protection has emerged as a priority science area in Ontario. Aquatic systems are experiencing increased loading of nutrients, pathogens, and emerging contaminants such as pharmaceuticals. Consequently, land-based fish farms are faced with increasingly stringent regulations on the discharge of effluent.

Conventional wastewater treatment systems currently used to treat aquaculture effluent are ecologically and economically expensive to build, operate, and maintain and they treat parameters within a relatively narrow range. Constructed wetlands have been shown to be effective at removing or reducing the concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous, pathogens and emerging contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products in wastewater effluent. However, much of the research on treatment wetlands has been done in warmer or more moderate climates such as the equatorial areas and warmer regions of the United States and Europe.

Researchers believe that properly designed wetlands can perform well in colder climates too. Hence this project is a step towards the research needed to validate applications of constructed wetlands which would then be subject to regulation by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, and/or the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing through the Ontario Building Code.

Duration: May ‘07 – Mar ’10

Funded by: DFO-ACRDP. Co-funded by: Ontario Trillium Foundation, Haliburton County Development Corporation.

Project team: Brent Wootton (FC), Chris Metcalfe (Trent U), Robin Slawson (WLU), Tom Pratt (DFO), Mark Williamson (FC), Stephen Thompson (FC), Scott Miles (FC), Kyla Greenham (Haliburton Hatchery), Karl Dickob (Fisheries and Aquaculture Enhancement Association)

For information contact: Brent Wootton (

Research advances the fight against coldwater disease on Ontario trout farms

Bacterial coldwater disease is caused by Flavobacterium psychrophilum and is the primary disease of concern for raceway operations that use groundwater. Researchers are preparing to conduct autogenous vaccine trials for coldwater disease. But in order for this strategy to be effective, more research is needed.

The strains of F. psychrophilum specific to Ontario must be identified. The growth conditions required for optimum expression of virulence and immunogenic proteins must be characterized and effective production monitoring systems developed to ensure that improved performance can be evaluated.

The research team has been using two-dimensional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis for comparison of culture conditions that influence protein expression of F. psychrophilum. They have identified several proteins that are strong candidates and are screening larger numbers of strains.

An additional objective of this work is to raise antisera to these proteins of interest. The project also involves a treatment trial to determine the efficacy of florfenicol as a therapeutic measure to blunt the impact of coldwater disease. Florfenicol is used to treat outbreaks of coldwater disease and appears to be effective in the short term. What is not known is if treatment in early stages (<1g) can produce long-term improvements in fish health and farm productivity.

Duration: Aug ‘07 – Mar ’09

Funded by: DFO-ACRDP. Co-funded by: AquaCage Fisheries Ltd., Lyndon Fish Hatcheries, University of Guelph

Project team: John S. Lumsden (U Guelph), Arman Yazdanpanah (U Guelph), Shohreh Hesami (U Guelph), Paul Huber (U Guelph), Doug Geiling (DFO), Gord Cole (AquaCage Fisheries Ltd.), Sean Pressey (Lyndon Fish Hatcheries)

For information contact: John Lumsden (

Predictive modeling tools assist freshwater site licensing decisions

Installing a current meter in Lake Diefenbaker, SK. (Photo: Heather Zanzerl)

Governmental agencies charged with the responsibility of licensing and regulating the aquaculture industry need objective tools to assist in their decision-making processes. The development of such tools would benefit industry, since the main factor limiting the expansion of the freshwater industry is access to new sites. The lack of tools to estimate ecological consequences of new sites has resulted in a very precautionary atmosphere, a complex and expensive application process and, ultimately, limited development of the industry.

Cage aquaculture has the potential to have far-ranging impacts on the lake ecosystem. Increased nutrient inputs can affect overall ecosystem productivity and excessive nutrient inputs can lead to eutrophication. This can have undesirable consequences such as nuisance algal blooms, oxygen deficiency and loss of biodiversity. The deposition of sold wastes under farms contributes to increased sediment oxygen demand as well as the potential to significantly alter the quality of benthic habitat and the composition of benthic communities beneath and surrounding farms.

There are five components to the strategy to develop objective tools. These include evaluating DEPOMOD, developing a dispersion model, developing a benthic impacts model, testing particle dispersion and benthic impacts models, and modeling ecological effects.

Duration: Jul ‘08 – Mar ’12 

Funded by: DFO-ACRDP. Co-funded by: Wild West Steelhead, SE, U Sask

Project team: Cheryl Podemski (DFO), Paula Azevedo (DFO), Dominique Bureau (U Guelph), Rob Tkach (DFO), Adam McFee (DFO), Doug Watkinson (DFO), David Ross (DFO), Peter Ashcroft (SE), John Geisey (U Sask), Dean Foss (Wild West Steelhead)

For information contact: Cheryl Podemski (

Cinnamon oil compound tested to control fungus infection in trout

Saprolegnia spores (Photo: E. Proulx, A. Faille) Inset: Alevin infected by Saprolegnia (Photo: É. Boucher, É. Proulx)

The common fungus Saprolegnia parasiticais a “water mold” that infects dead fish eggs and spreads to healthy eggs. It also infects the yolk sac and digestive tract of fry that are just starting to feed. With the banning of malachite green, the salmon farming industry urgently needs new effective and inexpensive treatments for this mold which have no negative effects on fish, humans, or the environment.

Some natural antifungal agents appear to have the desired qualities, and cinnamaldehyde, derived from the oil in the bark of cinnamon trees, is being investigated. The effectiveness of cinnamaldehyde on the fungus, in vitro as well as on the eggs and fry of brook trout (S. fontinalis) and rainbow trout (O. mykiss), is being tested and compared to malachite green, formaldehyde and bronopol. The researchers are also measuring the impact of the treatment (bath or in feed, depending on the test) on the egg hatching rate as well as on fry malformation and survival rates. The treatment is also being validated for aquaculture purposes.

Duration: Apr ‘06 – Mar ‘09

Funded by: DFO-ACRDP. Co-funded by: SORDAC, U Montreal, Pisciculture des Alleghanys Inc., Pisciculture de la Jacques-Cartier Inc.

Project team: Grant Vandenberg (U Laval), Pierre Belhumeur (U Montreal), Arianne Faille (U Montreal), Éric Boucher (IPSFAD), Émilie Proulx (U Laval), Daniel Proulx (U Laval), Richard Le Boucher (U Laval), Gabrielle Fortin, Marie-Ève Gervais, Amélie Potvin

For information contact: Grant Vandenberg (

Researchers scale up phase-feeding in rainbow trout to reduce phosphorous discharges

Laboratoire règional des sciences aquatiques (LARSA) (Photo: E. Boucher, D. Proulx)

In fish farming operations, phosphorus, which is an essential nutrient for skeletal development and growth, is obtained almost entirely from dietary sources. Discharges of phosphorus into the environment from fish farms come largely from feed that is not ingested by the fish or from ingested phosphorus that exceeds the organism’s physiological requirements. Intensive aquaculture can generate environmental phosphorus loadings that contribute to eutrophication of sensitive receiving water bodies.

These phosphorus discharges can be reduced by directly modifying the bioavailability of this element and the composition of the fish feed. The first objective of the research team is to optimize the formulation of a phosphorus-deficient diet. The second objective is to determine the alternating sequence of phosphorus-sufficient and phosphorus-deficient diets to maximize growth of rainbow trout and minimize phosphorus discharges.

The results of this project will contribute directly to the sustainable development of the Canadian aquaculture industry. This type of dietary regime could be a useful tool to help aquaculture producers achieve the objectives of Quebec’s freshwater aquaculture development strategy (STRADDAQ).

Duration: Sep ‘08 – Mar ‘11

Funded by: DFO-ACRDP. Co-funded by: SORDAC, FQRNT, RAQ, NRC-IRAP

Project team: Grant Vandenberg (U Laval), Johanie Fournier (U Laval), Eric Boucher (IPSFAD), Emilie Proulx (U Laval), Joël de la Noüe (U Laval), Daniel Proulx (U Laval), Rémy Lambert (U Laval)

For information contact: Grant Vandenberg (

Canadian model aqua-farm initiative begins in Manitoba

The Canadian Model Aqua-Farm Initiative involves developing and constructing a state-of-the-art commercial land-based freshwater aquaculture production system intended to be the basis for a standardized approach to freshwater aquaculture production. In addition, this first model farm will be heavily monitored to document the economic and environmental performance of the model design. The anticipated outcome is a model for a ‘turn-key’ freshwater aquaculture operation that will catalyze the development of a sustainable freshwater aquaculture industry in Canada.

Expansion within the freshwater aquaculture sector is dependent upon development and implementation of a strategic approach to generate the knowledge, technologies and practices necessary to resolve challenges. Development of a land-based ‘model farm’ program is a priority initiative in the 3rd Industrial Action Plan of the Interprovincial Partnership for Sustainable Freshwater Aquaculture Development (IPSFAD).

Model Farm in Denmark (Photo: G. Vandenberg)

Rainbow trout market (Photo: IPSFAD)

In March 2007, IPSFAD assembled a group of recognized national and international authorities on the design, operation, management and regulation of land-based aquaculture systems to develop the Canadian Model Aqua-Farm concept.

The ‘Canadian Model Aqua-Farm’ will be a production unit that effectively integrates the most current technologies in terms of nutrition and feeding strategy, fish health management, design of infrastructure and equipment, water conservation and utility, manure processing and management, production management, and operational practices and standards. All of these factors combine to optimize both financial and environmental performance. The model farm is expected to establish norms and baseline standards pertaining to the biological, technological, financial and environmental sustainability of aquaculture.

The first beta site for development of the Canadian Model Aqua-Farm is in Manitoba. It is anticipated that two additional beta sites will be developed – one in Saskatchewan and another in Alberta or British Columbia.

Duration: Jul ‘08 – Dec ‘11

Funded by: DFO-AIMAP. Co-funded by: MAFRI, IPSFAD, DFO-ACRDP, NRC-IRAP, Riddell’s Roasters Inc

Project team: Daniel Stechey (Canadian Aquaculture Systems), Grant Vandenberg (U Laval), Jeff Eastman (MAFRI), Eric Boucher (IPSFAD), Bill Robertson (Huntsman Marine Science Centre), Rudy and Leslie Reimer

For information contact: Daniel Stechey (

Workshop participants take first step to investigating development of a national broodstock program for rainbow trout

If the freshwater aquaculture industry is to realize its potential, the ‘unofficial’ moratorium it faces must be addressed in a rational manner. Sustainable development must progress by means of research, development, and technology transfer activities in priority areas that are currently limiting its expansion.

Trout eggs and alevins (Photo: E Proulx)

One of those priorities is the establishment of a national broodstock program to enhance performance in rainbow trout, specifically targeting improved fillet yield, enhanced growth rate and greater tolerance to warm-water conditions.

As a first step in this process, the Interprovincial Partnership for the Sustainable Freshwater Aquaculture Development (IPSFAD) held a workshop on creating a selection and breeding program for rainbow trout aquaculture in Canada. This event, held in February 2009, drew together various Canadian stakeholders of the rainbow trout aquaculture industry and Canadian and international specialists in the genetic field to establish priorities. It also brought old and new players together to establish new partnerships for the benefit of the future national broodstock program.

Duration: Jan ‘09 – Mar ‘09

Funded by: NSERC - Strategic Workshops Program. Co-funded by: DFO-NASAPI, DFO-ACRDP, NOAA, NRC-IRAP

Project team: Rich Moccia (U Guelph), Grant Vandenberg (U Laval), Eric Boucher (IPSFAD), Karen Tracey (NOAA), Steve Naylor (OMAF), David Bevan (U Guelph), Michael Burke (U Guelph)

For information contact: Rich Moccia (

Researchers begin developing predictive models and nutrient trigger limits for cage culture in lakes

Sediment core sampling (Photo: B. Lalonde)

In Ontario, the Great Lakes provide a potential opportunity for growth in the fresh water sector. But perceived environmental impacts are presently restricting the growth of this industry. The need for sustainable environmental management of cage-aquaculture farms is of the utmost importance to preserve the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes. The environmental concerns include, but are not limited to, the impact of farming activities on water quality, benthic communities (excess feed and feces), and native fisheries. Industry, regulators, as well as academic and other government agencies are striving to create a sustainable ecosystem approach that would include a sustainable aquaculture industry.

This work is a component of a larger project to develop predictive models and nutrient trigger limits for a lake with cage aquaculture. The goal of this work is to organize, plan and implement the necessary means to collect the appropriate physical and chemical data essential to address current “science gaps” and provide sound data for use in development of predictive models and trigger limits. The components include developing a study plan to collect relevant physical and chemical data, reviewing existing physical and chemical data, consulting with owner/operators of fish farms to collect relevant information, generating detailed maps and illustrations of sampling locations, and developing a model of assimilative capacity and estimating nutrient loading from farms.

This work will increase the understanding of water movement, fluctuations, and the nutrient regimes of a freshwater lake with caged-aquaculture. This output will be used by Ontario regulators to make more informed science-based decisions to enable development of a sustainable freshwater aquaculture industry.

Duration: Jan ‘08 – Jan ‘09

Funded by: EC

Project team: Richard D. Moccia (U Guelph), Jacqui Milne. (U Guelph)

For information contact: Richard D. Moccia (


Vertical temperature profiles aim to improve farm management at lake sites

Year-round vertical temperature profiles at different cage site environments are being investigated in order to understand temperature fluctuations to which fish are exposed and to learn how this may affect aquaculture management. Correlating these temperature profiles to farm productivity and health of the fish can assist decision making by farmers on topics such as feeding, health maintenance and waste management.

Reporting covers all of the plots of the different temperature profiles and relevant site-specific data tables. Suggestions are being made on how farmers can use this information to streamline their operational procedures for more effective management.

The goal is to make the aquaculture industry as environmentally dynamic as possible by incorporating all relevant monitoring parameters into adaptive management strategies which may be useful in minimizing the impacts of farms on the environment, and improving the health and quality of the fish produced.

Duration: May ‘07 – Dec ’08

Funded by: EC

Project team: Richard D. Moccia (U Guelph), Kris Osuchowski (U Guelph)

For information contact: Richard D. Moccia (


Analysis of composted fish waste enables farm to meet regulatory guidelines in Ontario

Increased restrictions and costs of rendering animal products, a partial response to outbreaks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in North America, have resulted in changes to the Dead Animal Disposal Act and stimulated the review of composting techniques for carcass disposal. Furthermore, there is the opportunity to produce a value-added product from waste that incurs ever increasing disposal costs.

Composted fish waste (Photo: NOAA)

A private fish farmer in Northern Ontario has developed a composting system for fish waste. The system utilizes fish processing waste and dead stock along with locally available waste sawdust in an aerobic digester to produce compost. While further refinement of the production process is ongoing, sampling procedures and analysis requirements have been finalized and the operation could produce over 2,000 tonnes of compost per year. The compost from this process is now analysed.

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment (OMOE) has regulatory guidelines for the production and use of aerobic compost in Ontario. These guidelines include site construction, operational methods and quality analysis. To comply with OMOE guidelines for the sale of commercial compost, selected metals and organic chemicals must not exceed stated levels and minimum concentrations of certain plant nutrients (e.g., N,P, K), organic matter, and carbon:nitrogen ratio are desirable. The required chemical analysis and compilation of the ensuing results were the focus of the project.

Duration: Jul ‘06 – Jul ’08

Funded by: EC. Co-funded by: DFO-ACRDP

Project team: Richard D. Moccia (U Guelph), David Bevan (U Guelph), Mike Meeker (Meeker’s Aquaculture Canada Inc.), Doug Geiling (DFO)

For information contact: Richard D. Moccia (


Monitoring flow of water on land-based fish farms enables better management of Ontario water resources

The management of surface and ground water in Ontario is legislated by the Ontario Water resources Act (OWRA) and accompanying regulations. The Water Taking and Transfer Regulation (O.Reg 387/04) Section 9 requires all permit holders to collect and record data on the actual volume of water taken daily and to report this data to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) annually. The volume of water taken must be measured by a flow meter or calculated using a ministry approved method. Several publications are available to assist permit holders comply with these regulations and an online data reporting system has been developed.

MagFlow Water Meter Assembly (Photo: D. Bevan)

Knowledge of the actual water taking data, as opposed to the maximum permitted amount, will allow better management of Ontario’s water resources through the development of water budgets and watershed-based planning and development strategies.

Most land-based aquaculture facilities hold a Permit to Take Water (PTTW) with a variety of conditions attached. This project reviews potential methods available for water flow monitoring at land-based aquaculture farms, outlines the criteria used for selection of an appropriate measurement device and provides a detailed evaluation on the use of electronic “Magnetic flow meters” recently installed at the Alma Aquaculture Research Station of the University of Guelph.

Duration: Jul ‘06 – Apr ’08

Funded by: EC. Co-funded by: OMAFRA.

Project team: Richard D. Moccia (U Guelph), David Bevan (U Guelph)

For information contact: Richard D. Moccia (


Computer tool supports regulator decision-making for site applications in Ontario

Decision Support Tool for cage aquaculture in Ontario

A computerized Decision Support Tool (DST) is being developed to provide a consistent formula to regulators in the review of aquaculture license applications. It is tied to a four-stage process. Any persons seeking to obtain an aquaculture license to culture fish in cages in open water must submit to OMNR detailed information on the site, location, water chemistry, surrounding ecosystem, public and aboriginal concerns and the proposed operational plan, as well as a risk analysis. This information will be entered into the DST by the applicant and submitted to OMNR. The DST becomes the application package, and supports regulators in deciding whether an application should be approved or denied, or identifies the need for further information or consideration.

The DST has ten worksheets which contain the decision criteria and document decision points which lead to a rating of risk pertaining to the 10 categories - Fish Habitat, Fish Health, Fish Communities, Species at Risk, Operational Practices, Water Quality, Sediment, Consultation, Navigable Waters, and Crown Land Tenure.

DST decision points result in a colour rating (green, yellow, orange or red) for each of the ten categories reflecting the level of risk. The “Recommendation Tab” assigns an overall rating to the final application based on the number of green, yellow, orange and red ratings for the ten categories and provides a final recommendation.

Duration: 2005 – 2009

Funded by: COA. Co-funded by: AquaNet, OMAFRA.

Project team: Richard D. Moccia (U Guelph), Quentin Day (OMNR), Lisa-Miller Dodd (OMNR), Laura Blease (OMOE), Amy Pogue (OMOE), Dave Ross (DFO), Wayne Hyatt (DFO), Nardia Ali (EC), Steve Naylor (OMAFRA), David Bevan (U Guelph), Gregor Reid (UNB)

For information contact: Richard D. Moccia (


Feed company evaluates alternative fat sources in feed formulations for rainbow trout

The cost of feed is the single most significant factor in the economics of rainbow trout production. Fish oil sources in trout diets are expensive and because availability is expected to decline while demand continues to increase, feed prices are expected to increase, contributing to higher costs of fish production.

Hand-feeding rainbow trout (Photo: D. Bevan)

Fats and lipids are essential nutrients for fish. They are an important energy source, they allow absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, they play a role in membrane structure and they are components of hormones. There are several alternative sources of fats suitable for commercial trout diets. These sources can be used to manufacture a variety of diets, containing different protein: energy ratios, that may result in different growth responses.

The test diets in this trial are manufactured with commercially available products approved under the Canadian Feeds Act. The feed manufacturer desires to know if these substitutes are suitable in rainbow trout diet formulation such that they maintain nutrient quality in a cost efficient manner.

Growth performance, feed efficiency, morbidity, mortality, feeding behaviour and carcass yield are being used to assess the performance of the test diets, allowing comparison to existing commercial diets.

The anticipated benefit will be the ability to evaluate the effects of formulation on growth efficiency and overall profitability for both the trout producer and on carcass yield for the fish processor.

Duration: Mar ’07 – Nov ’07

Funded by: Martin Mills Inc. Co-funded by: OMAFRA 

Project team: Richard D. Moccia (U Guelph), Michael Burke (U Guelph), Mark Wagner (Martin Mills Inc)

For information contact: Richard D. Moccia (


Newer feed formulations require updating of fish waste composition for Ontario regulations

Recently, there has been evidence that elevated levels of certain trace metals might accumulate under fish cages, which may warrant additional environmental concern. More recently, there has been discussion by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, regarding the use of toxicity testing of benthic deposits (primarily fecal and feed wastes) below cage farms, as a possible means of assessing environmental impacts. All land-based fish farms in Ontario that require ‘Certificates of Approval’ for the collection and handling of effluent, need acceptable ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ (SOP’s) for the disposal of materials collected in the licensed sewage treatment works.

A detailed chemical analysis of fish feces from Ontario aquaculture farms has been previously reported. However, the formulations and ingredients used in commercial fish feed in Ontario have changed significantly over the last 15 years. Notably, there has been an increase towards higher energy diets, total phosphorus concentrations have been reduced, fish-meal and plant meal types have changed, and there has been a reduction of the non-digestible materials (mainly carbohydrates and fibre) to create ‘nutrient-dense’ diets.

Therefore, research on the composition of rainbow trout feces warrants updating of this previously published material in order to reflect present day feed standards and management practices. This investigation provides an updated chemical analysis of feces collected from Ontario rainbow trout fed contemporary commercial feeds and addresses the implications of these findings to the Ontario Nutrient Management Act and its regulatory compliance.

Duration: Jun ‘06 – Jun ‘07

Funded by: EC. Co-funded by: OMAFRA

Project team: Richard D. Moccia (U Guelph), David Bevan (U Guelph), Gregor Reid (DFO)

For information contact: Richard D. Moccia (


Ontario advances coordinated process for cage aquaculture sites

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), Fish Culture Section, received funding through the Canada Ontario Agreement (COA), for 2004-09, to develop detailed guidelines for cage aquaculture site assessment and monitoring, along with a decision support tool to provide guidance to regulators. The guidelines, when completed, will set out the specific data collection requirements for an applicant, including collection methodology and rationale, and also identify any ongoing monitoring requirements.

Ontario aquaculture cage farm (Photo: D. Bevan)

The decision support tool will provide guidance to regulators in the review of aquaculture license applications for new sites as well as changes and ongoing licensing at existing sites. The funding for this project is contingent on the development of a partnership with academic partners, University of Guelph, and other government organizations with responsibilities for aquaculture in Ontario.

This project is consistent with the mandate of the Aquaculture Task Group (ATG) of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers (CCFAM) to address site access issues and to focus on improving and harmonizing the site application and review processes. It also assists Ontario in continuing to regulate the aquaculture industry in a manner providing for ecologically sustainable growth. By working together, the guidelines and decision support tool we develop will help to minimize the ecological risks associated with aquaculture and will support the harmonization process.

Duration: Jan ‘04 – Dec ‘09

Funded by: COA. Co-funded by: U Guelph, OMAFRA, OMOE, DFO, EC.

Project team: Quentin Day (OMNR), Lisa-Miller Dodd (OMNR), Laura Blease (OMOE), Amy Pogue (OMOE), Dave Ross (DFO), Wayne Hyatt (DFO), Nardia Ali (EC), Steve Naylor (OMAFRA), Richard Moccia (U Guelph), David Bevan (U Guelph)

For information contact: Quentin Day (

Investigating radiation bystander effects in fish

In radiation biology, the accepted principle of exposure is that the effect of radiation is directly related to the dose which is received (i.e., an increase in the dose results in a directly proportional increase in the cellular or genetic level effect). However, at very low radiation doses the effects begin to deviate from what would be the classical predicted model of exposure effects.

X-ray irradiation of trout eggs (Photo: D Bevan)

This deviation is thought to be a result of the so-called ‘Bystander Effect’. The bystander effect has been demonstrated in cultured cells and occurs when cells which have not been irradiated but are in the proximity of a radiated cell, begin to exhibit some or all, of the effects of direct irradiation (e.g., DNA damage, apoptosis or necrosis).

This project addresses potential concerns about heated waste water from nuclear power plants. The presence of a bystander effect could have important consequences for the safe use of heated effluent water for increasing aquaculture production, as well as its potential impact upon the reproductive success of fish, including the wild fisheries.

Additionally, the project may also support a new paradigm in our understanding of the effects of exposure to low levels of radiation and synergistic responses. The notion of a “bystander effect” has important implications in epidemiology and resource management, because this work is demonstrating that there may be unexpected responses to low level effects of radiation exposure, and these may have both detrimental as well as advantageous effects on the genetics and/or physiology of impacted fish species.

Duration: Nov ‘06 – May ‘10

Funded by: NSERC. Co-funded by: OMAFRA

Project team: Colin B. Seymour (McMaster U), Carmel E. Mothersill (McMaster U), Richard W. Smith (McMaster U), Richard D. Moccia (U Guelph)

For information contact: Colin Seymour (


New Brunswick Institute conducts genetics program to improve Arctic char

In recent years, the Coastal Zone Research Institute (CZRI) has been working with the New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec fish farming industry to genetically improve Arctic char in order to develop leading-edge solutions to ensure the production of high-quality eggs with known genealogy.

CZRI is breeding this species in captivity to select the highest-performing individuals in each generation for intensive production. Researchers are currently at the fourth generation, which means these are higher-performing fish. CZRI is the only organization in the world that is rearing a Fraser strain broodstock with a known pedigree.

This research project is also intended to create several high-performing families of Arctic char. This is essential for maintaining the genetic diversity of the stock, which will make it possible to rear a fifth generation and all-female lots that perform as well as the preceding generations.

The program also includes scientific studies on the evaluation of growth, salinity tolerance, flesh pigmentation, late maturation, effects of triploidy, and the continuous improvement of rearing techniques.

Duration: 2004 – 2010

Funded by: ACOA-AIF. Co-funded by: NBIF, NB DAA-Total Development Fund, NSERC

Project team: Claude S. Pelletier (CZRI), Michel Poitras (CZRI), Gilles David (CZRI), Joël Cormier (CZRI), Guelph University, Merlin Fish Farm, NB DAA, CJL Pisciculture, Aquaculture Nord’est

For information contact: Claude S. Pelletier (

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