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Canadian Aquaculture R&D Review 2013

Environmental Interactions

Refinement of DEPOMOD validations for freshwater finfish sites

The project objective is further validation of DEPOMOD as an environmental management tool for the trout cage culture industry in Ontario, and builds on work funded through the Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP). DEPOMOD is a dispersion model designed for marine aquaculture that is increasingly used in several countries, but has never been validated in freshwater. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Fisheries Protection and the inland aquaculture regulators need a defensible dispersion modelling tool to assist with the review of new site license applications and with decisions regarding applications for changes to feed quotas. Additionally, predictions of the spatial extent of the deposition footprint may be used within the development of a new aquaculture sediment monitoring program in Ontario. The purpose of this project is to continue validation of DEPOMOD, and to focus on means of improving data collection and model parameterization to improve model agreement. The primary focus will be on a validation with a comprehensive sample collection at a site that is fixed to shore thereby providing minimal uncertainty in cage location, but the effect of cage movement and of temporal variability in wind-driven turbulence will be explored using other data sets available. Comparison of model predictions with surface sediment chemistry and benthic invertebrate community structure may provide a stronger agreement with model outputs than short term sediment traps because these parameters will integrate the effects of waste deposition and cage movement over time.

june 2011 – MAR. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR) co-funded by: Ontario Ministry of Foods and Rural Affairs; Northern Ontario Aquaculture Association

project lead: Cheryl Podemski (DFO)

Project team: Padala Chittibabu, Paula Azevedo, Doug Geiling, Jian Zhang, Cyndi Wlasichuk, Jamie Raper (DFO)

collaborators: Coldwater Fisheries; Northern Ontario Aquaculture Association


Collecting a water sample
Sediment coring
ROV sediment traps

Establishing zones for managing risks related to pathogens and/or pollutants originating on finfish aquaculture facilities in the Broughton Archipelago and Discovery Islands

This project will modify circulation and particle tracking models already developed through previous PARR and Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP) projects, and in consultation with DFO Aquaculture Management and Habitat Divisions and members of the Broughton Archipelago Management Plan (BAMP) to support the establishment of zones for managing risks related to pathogens and/or pollutants originating on finfish aquaculture facilities (farms and processing plants) in the Broughton Archipelago and Discovery Islands. Particle release studies, for as wide a set of oceanographic conditions as the lateral boundary and atmospheric forcing fields permit, will be carried out to compute probability fields that reflect the zones of influence for all or a representative subset of farms in these regions. These “water movement” zones will be combined with information on wild fish migration patterns and survival (as determined by a comprehensive literature review) to produce management zones for DFO Fisheries Protection and Aquaculture Management.

APR. 2011 – MAR. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR) co-funded by: BAMP

project lead: Mike Foreman (DFO)

Project team: Diane Masson, Peter Chandler, Kyle Garver, Dario Stucchi, Darren Tuele, Michael Ikonomou, Stewart Johnson, Marc Trudel (DFO)

collaborators: Marine Harvest Canada; Broughton Archipelago Monitoring Program (BAMP)


Impacts of Pacific Herring on the health of farmed Atlantic Salmon in BC

Aquaculture within sea-cages leads to possible disease risks from the marine environment due to the generality that fish sharing water are likely to share diseases. Unless rigorous biosecurity practices are implemented, equivalent to quarantine conditions, there is almost certain to be some disease interactions between farmed and wild fish species. A particular species of interest is the Pacific Herring, Clupea pallasi, which is known to inhabit Atlantic Salmon sea-cages. Pacific Herring are known to carry bacteria such as Aeromonas salmonicida and are possible vectors for Renibacterium salmoninarum, the causative agent of Bacterial Kidney Disease. With the close interaction between herring and farmed Atlantic Salmon it is important to understand diseases of herring and pathogens that may be transmitted to salmonids. The goals of this research are to identify herring pathogens that pose risks to Atlantic Salmon, develop a better understanding of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) virus isolates from herring and Atlantic Salmon, and identify if VHS can cause disease in Atlantic Salmon.

oct. 2011 – MAR. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP) co-funded by: Herring Conservation and Research Society; Marine Harvest Canada Inc.; Mainstream Canada; Grieg Seafoods BC Ltd.

project lead: Kyle Garver (DFO)

Project team: Jan Lovy, Paulina Piesik (DFO)

collaborator: Paul Hershberger


Paulina Piesik working in the lab

Distribution and concentration patterns of SLICE® in sediments at high, medium, and low energy aquaculture sites on the west coast

The aim of this research project is part of the broader-scope DFO objective of assessing the potential impact of commercial salmon fish farming on the health of the surrounding marine ecosystem. Specifically, this study looks at the effect of finfish farm sea lice treatments on non-target organisms. Current fish farming practices include the use of in-feed chemical treatments for controlling sea lice such as SLICE®, an in-feed treatment that includes emamectin benzoate (EB) as its active ingredient.

This study builds on previous research done in the Broughton Archipelago to assess the effects of SLICE® on Spot Prawns. Sediment samples have been collected close to aquaculture sites to determine the distribution and concentration patterns of SLICE® in the sediments (surface and sediment cores) under a wide range of oceanographic conditions: at high, medium and low energy aquaculture sites on the west coast. The biodegradation characteristics of SLICE® in marine sediments will also be examined to determine how long these chemicalsmay persist in the environment and at what concentrations.

The overall findings of these studies will increase our knowledge of the potential effects of SLICE® applications at marine cage finfish farm locations on the surrounding benthic environment. The measured environmental EB concentrations will be used to test, calibrate, and implement the DEPOMOD (modeling system) and other biophysical models to help predict the behaviour of EB in relevant aquatic ecosystems. These findings will be useful in forming regulations for the use of SLICE® in the aquaculture industry.

APR. 2012 – MAR. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR) co-funded by: BAMP

Project lead: Michael Ikonomou (DFO)

Project team: Les Burridge, Kerra Hoyseth, Cory Dubetz (DFO)

collaborators: Jon Chamberlain, Mike Foreman, Terri Sutherland (DFO); Sharon DeDominicis (Marine Harvest Canada); Frank Gobas (SFU)


Effects of freshwater aquaculture on freshwater benthic communities

The project will look at whether the impacts to fish habitat in the high depositional area under freshwater farms, as measured by benthic community alteration, is off-set by enrichment effects observed distant to the farm. This will support the current Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Fisheries Protection Program practice of determining freshwater finfish farms to be low risk. Additionally, the project will generate knowledge of the community response of freshwater benthic invertebrates to a gradient of disturbance by organic enrichment. Specific objectives are: 1) taxonomic analysis of existing invertebrate samples collected along distance transects at commercial farms; 2) determination of individual and community biomass of individuals; 3) mapping of invertebrate abundance and biomass along a transect from farm sites to reference sites; 4) spatial extrapolation of data from transects to determine relative losses/gains in biomass due to farms; and 5) assessing the benthic invertebrate ‘fitness’ through biometrics along a gradient in organic waste deposit.

APR. 2011 – MAR. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR) co-funded by: DFO Fisheries Protection Branch

project lead: Cheryl Podemski (DFO)

Project team: Megan Otu, Jian Zhang (DFO)

collaborators: Northern Ontario Aquaculture Association; Coldwater Fisheries; Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food


Megan Otu working at a microbalance

Support for the development of a draft sediment monitoring program for freshwater cage aquaculture

This project provides partial support for the development of a draft sediment monitoring program for aquaculture-affected freshwater sediments. The development of the monitoring program is a component of the Coordinated Application, Review and Decision Guidelines for Cage Aquaculture Sites in Ontario. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is providing data and technical assistance, to this Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources lead initiative, with the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Environment Canada as co-participants. Sulfide, which is often a key measure within marine monitoring programs, is not a reliable indicator of the accumulation of aquaculture waste in freshwater, and an alternative needs to be identified. The use of a geochemical indicator is preferable to biological monitoring because of reduced time and costs, but a surrogate measure must provide a reliable indicator of biological condition. Existing DFO data sets will be examined to identify potential indicators that can be directly linked to aquaculture activities, which have low variability to minimize sampling requirements, and which have a correlation with changes observed in biological communities. Data sets will be further analyzed for predictive relationships and to identify potential thresholds to inform and trigger further monitoring or management actions.

jan. 2006 – MAR. 2012

Funded by: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) co-funded by: DFO – Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR); OMoE; DFO – Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP); OMAFRA

Project team: Kristin Hynes (DFO); Lee Grapentine, Jacqui Milne (Environment Canada); Duncan Boyd, Ngan Diep (OMoE); Lisa Miller Dodd (OMNR); Gord Cole (Aquacage Fisheries); Cheryl Podemski (DFO)

collaborators: Ontario Ministry of the Environment (OMoE); Environment Canada


Aerial photograph of a freshwater trout farm on Lake Huron

Analysis of relationships between bivalve aquaculture and eelgrass coverage at a bay-wide scale

The project will examine if a potential relationship between eelgrass and bivalve aquaculture can be detected at a bay-wide survey scale and evaluate if there is a level at which bivalve aquaculture starts to negatively impact fish habitat (eelgrass). The relationship between eelgrass coverage (a proxy of eelgrass productivity) and depth distribution (a proxy of water transparency) with aquaculture density (a proxy of bivalve filtration) will be analyzed. Field surveys and mapping were conducted to quantify eelgrass and aquaculture in bays in the Gulf region with a range of ratios of aquaculture: eelgrass coverage. Land-use data will be added as co-variables and multivariate statistical analyses will be conducted to examine the shape of the relationship between aquaculture coverage (or density) and eelgrass bed coverage, and between aquaculture and eelgrass depth distribution. If asymptotes and inflection points are observed, it could indicate that ecosystem change is occurring due to aquaculture activities.

sept. 2011 – MAR. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)

project lead: Monique Niles (DFO)

Project team: Andrea Locke, Thomas Landry (DFO)

collaborators: Guy Robichaud, Brad Firth, Tim Webster, Sylvio Doiron, Marie-Josée Maillet (DFO)


To validate the robustness of ecosystem carrying capacity models

The removal of phytoplankton by densely stocked mussels may exceed the capacity of the ecosystem to renew phytoplankton populations. In this project, the robustness of ecosystem models will be validated in Malpeque Bay (PEI), which has a large watershed area (592,000,000 m3). Other distinctive features include an intricate river system running into Malpeque and multiple connection points between Malpeque and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Together these features represent a challenging and therefore suitable environment to validate the ongoing development of ecosystem models for shellfish aquaculture. A second rationale for the project relates to the management of aquaculture in a proactive manner. The total area presently allocated to mussel farming in Malpeque Bay is approximately 600 ha. However, the PEI Lease Management Board is engaged in a planning exercise regarding any future releases of acreage in Malpeque Bay for mussel culture. The results from this project will help identify the optimal distribution and configuration of new leases within the bay.

june 2011 – Mar. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)

project lead: Thomas Guyondet (DFO)

Project team: Luc Comeau, Rémi Sonier, Thomas Landry (DFO)


Spatial distribution of water renewal time in Malpeque Bay, PEI, forced by tides

Developing a carrying capacity framework for Baynes Sound, BC

The successful culture of suspension-feeding shellfish relies on the natural replenishment of phytoplankton in a culture area. This replenishment can occur via flushing, where water exchange brings in new phytoplankton, or through primary production in the area. When the population of cultured shellfish in an area is large, there is the potential that the cultured animals will deplete food particles from the water column much faster than it can be replenished. This is known as ‘farm depletion’ and can be an indicator that the population of cultured shellfish is exceeding the production carrying capacity of the area. Exceeding carrying capacity is a concern to both regulators and industry because of the potential environmental and ecosystem effects that might result and because insufficient food supply negatively impacts on shellfish growth.

The goal of this research project is to develop a framework to assess carrying capacity for shellfish production in Baynes Sound, BC, an area that is home to a significant shellfish culture industry and also one that has been identified by Fisheries and Oceans Canada for integrated coastal zone management. The framework will focus on establishing a particulate budget for Baynes Sound to help determine carrying capacity and also provide a real-time assessment of current benthic and pelagic conditions to aid in the development of siting criteria.

The project will also collect hydrodynamic data needed to develop a Finite Volume Circulation Model (FVCOM) to help describe the water circulation patterns in the sound as well as data to better characterize biological controls on phytoplankton concentrations in Baynes Sound. The change in abundance and size range of phytoplankton in the Sound will be used to determine whether wild and cultured shellfish are depleting their food supply faster than it can be replenished. These models, coupled with shellfish filtration, assimilation, and faecal production estimates, will be used to determine the influence of shellfish production on benthic and water column exchanges and be used to assess the carrying capacity of the Sound.

APR. 2011 – MAR. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)

project lead: Terri Sutherland (DFO)

Project team: Peter Cranford, Chris Pearce, Hannah Stewart (DFO)


Assessing trace-element indicators of benthic organic enrichment associated with aquaculture activities

Aquaculture wastes, such as faeces or uneaten food, can accumulate beneath and near farm sites. In the near-field, this accumulation is predictable using depositional modelling tools such as DEPOMOD, and the organic enrichment effects associated with this deposition are well known and managed to ensure environmental sustainability. However, the far-field effects that may be associated with the release of aquaculture waste material are poorly understood, partly because it is difficult to predict accurately the dispersion of wastes. Additionally, once wastes are moved from the immediate vicinity of a farm site, it is difficult to distinguish among deposits coming from farm activities, industrial sources, and natural sources.

To monitor, and if necessary, regulate, the far-field effects of aquaculture wastes, it is necessary to be able to identify what material originates from farm sources and where these wastes are transported. A limited number of sensitive detection tools (sediment-free sulfides and geo-normalized trace-metals) are currently available to environmental monitoring programs for making such identifications. Research has shown that aquaculture waste material (fish feed and faeces) has a trace-metal signature that can be distinguished from that of naturally-occurring trace-metals. It is proposed that the geo-normalization of trace-elements may identify depositional “hot spots” and track transport pathways to determine the fate of farm waste material.

This PARR project will focus on running a preliminary analysis on archived benthic data sets collected previously by the BC Ministry of the Environment and DFO. These datasets will support a region-wide assessment of aquaculture-derived trace-metal signature under various oceanographic, bathymetric,
and operational settings.

APR. 2012 – MAR. 2014

Funded by: DFO – Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)

project lead: Terri Sutherland (DFO)

Project team: Bernie Taekema, Kerra Hoyseth, March Klaver (DFO)


Environmental information system for aquaculture, Phase 2

Canadian salmon farmers are collaborating to improve environmental data management and sharing, ensuring a high level of accuracy, and reducing regulatory reporting costs. This project, led by the BC Salmon Farmers Association, will deliver information technology that will also be directly relevant to DFO’s industry reporting requirements.

In the first phase of this project, an improved BC fish-health database was launched, and a steering committee was setup to facilitate national discussions on the user needs for common fish-health information technology infrastructure. The improved fish-health database now provides efficient data upload and exchange. In addition a National Aquaculture Fish Health Data Management Framework Workshop was held January 2012. Phase 2 of the project will build on this infrastructure by standardizing and optimizing regulatory reporting through the database, standardizing and including diagnostic data in the database, and optimizing efficiencies of workflows.

These activities will result in fish-health management being enhanced in BC, thereby improving industry health management tools, enhancing industry productivity and operating efficiency as well as reducing operating costs. All of these factors are important contributors to improved environmental performance and long term industry sustainability.

APR. 2012 – MAR. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Aquaculture Innovation and Market Access Program (AIMAP) co-funded by: Hatfield Consultants

project lead: Mary Ellen Walling (BC Salmon Farmers Association)

Project team: David Minato, Martin Davies, Jason Suwala, John Galambos (BC Salmon Farmers Association)

COllaboraTORS: Marine Harvest Canada; Mainstream Canada; Grieg Seafood BC; Creative Salmon Ltd.; West Coast Fishculture


Assessing the value of bivalve meat as an indicator of ecosystem health

The purpose of this project is to assess the value of bivalve meat yield as a simple and cost-effective indicator of ecosystem change. The underlying rational is that drop in meat size and weight below natural bounds signals that the most important filter-feeders in the system (i.e., the bivalves in culture) are having a negative feedback on themselves and presumably other secondary producers in the environment. Conceptually the intent is to avoid a “tipping point”, where the resilience is exceeded and the system reorganizes, compromising ecosystem functioning and consequently ecosystem services.

The project is divided into 2 phases. Firstly, a descriptive analysis of the available datasets and an evaluation of the potential of meat yield as an indicator of ecosystem change will be undertaken. If preliminary results conclude that meat yield could be successfully used as an indicator of ecosystem change, a second phase of the project will be considered to establish a quantitative regulatory framework for the management of shellfish farming.

nov. 2011 – Mar. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)

project lead: Ramon Filgueira (Dalhousie U.); Luc Comeau (DFO)

Project team: Thomas Guyondet, Thomas Landry (DFO)

collaborators: Jon Grant (Dalhousie U.)


Study area and location of monitoring stations of oysters and mussels

Evaluating Beggiatoa and OPC as indicators of benthic habitat conditions on hard ocean substrates using visual data collected seasonally at new finfish aquaculture sites and near the end of production at established sites

The overall purpose of this project is to evaluate Beggiatoa (a type of aquatic bacteria) and OPC (Opportunistic Polychaete Complexes) as potential indicators of deposition around finfish aquaculture sites located over hard ocean substrates for HADD (harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat) determinations. Four approaches will be used: 1) statistical relationships will be determined among and between potential indicators, physical parameters (e.g., substrate type) and production level by sampling along transects extending from cages, at site level (production level effects) and sample station level (for finer scale patterns); 2) physical influences on Beggiatoa and OPC cover will be determined by testing relationships between observations in baseline data and data collected for the first investigation; 3) differences in observations at the cage edge and at more distal locations will be determined by comparing the results of the first investigation to those from data collected at the cage edge post-production; and 4) temporal relationships among Beggiatoa /OPC (plus other components of benthic communities) and organic input will be determined by monitoring organic enrichment and benthic communities over time at new finfish aquaculture sites. Seasonal changes to the benthic community will also be determined by monitoring reference sites.

july 2011 – mar. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)

project lead: Dounia Hamoutene (DFO)

Project team: Lee Sheppard (DFO)

collaborators: Elizabeth Bennett, Carole Grant (DFO)


Influence of Eastern Oyster aquaculture overwintering on eelgrass

Eelgrass (Zostera marina) provides fish habitat to numerous commercial fish species and is considered an Ecologically Significant Species (ESS) in Atlantic Canada. There are concerns that various activities related to oyster aquaculture are causing disturbance and alteration to eelgrass beds. One such practice, which occurs in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, is the benthic over-wintering of oyster bags. During the open water seasons, oysters are cultured in plastic mesh bags attached to long lines floated at the water surface. However, in this area where surface waters typically freeze, the bags are moved to the deepest part of the lease and dropped to the bottom where they can be left to overwinter or accessed through the ice for harvesting. Since the substrate of these lease areas is often characterized by eelgrass habitat, concern has been expressed by habitat regulators about physical damage that may be caused to eelgrass by these over-wintering activities.

This project is designed to assess the potential impact that the practice of overwintering oyster bags may have on eelgrass beds in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence and will provide the opportunity to study eelgrass winter ecology and its susceptibility to disturbance during this period. The project will also examine the environmental performance of a newly developed bivalve aquaculture technology (Horizontal Rope Floating Rack system). This floating rack system rests on the substrate while ensuring the oysters themselves do not make contact with the benthos. We hypothesize this system will cause less benthic disturbance than current culture structures while also lessening oyster mortality. The results of this study are expected to contribute to scientific advice for regulatory decisions and best management practices to minimize and/or mitigate potential negative impacts of oyster aquaculture on eelgrass habitat.

Apr. 2012 – Mar. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)

project lead: Simon Courtenay (DFO)

Project team: Marc Skinner (Stantec Consulting Ltd./ CRI); Monica Boudreau (DFO)

collaborators: André L. Mallet (L’Étang Ruisseau Bar Ltée)


Comparing the impact of bottom and suspended oyster culture on bay-scale food resources

Bivalves, such as mussels and oysters, are filter feeders that extract naturally occurring food, such as plankton, from the water. Their culture does not require the addition of feed; however, growth depends on the availability of food in the environment. When farming these species, special care must be taken to ensure that the number of cultured animals does not exceed carrying capacity of the area. Exceeding carrying capacity will ultimately result in decreased growth of the cultured animals and could potentially impact other components of the ecosystem.

Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) aquaculture is gradually evolving from the traditional use of the benthic environment (bottom culture) to suspension culture, where the animals are grown in or on structures suspended in the water column where higher growth rates are often observed. The Foxley/Trout River system in Prince Edward Island (PEI) is considered to be one of the more heavily utilized oyster producing areas on the island. Some oyster culturists in this area have experimented with this new approach and are requesting to convert their bottom leases to suspended leases. However, both industry and regulators recognize the need to evaluate the ecological impact of growing oysters in the water column before lease conversions are granted. Since suspended culture holds a greater density of shellfish than bottom culturing, food availability may be an issue if all leases were to become suspended culture.

This project is designed to address the issue of carrying capacity by examining the extent to which the diet of bottom and suspended oysters overlap; comparing the filtration rates of oysters from the two culture types (bottom and suspended); and incorporating this information into a simple bay-scale model to quantify the impact of different culture scenarios on available food resources.

Apr. 2012 – Mar. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)

project lead: Rémi Sonier (DFO)

Project team: Luc Comeau, Claudio DiBacco (DFO); Réjean Tremblay (UQAR)

collaborators: Guy Robichaud, Brad Firth, Tim Webster, Sylvio Doiron, Marie-Josée Maillet (DFO)


Suspended oyster farm on the Foxley/Trout River system, PEI
Oysters on the sea floor in an eelgrass bed

Exploration of methodologies for environmental effects monitoring of finfish aquaculture sites in sandy bottom environments with natural disturbances: Shelburne, NS

The effect that aquaculture waste material (feed and faeces), generated by finfish operations, may have on the environment beneath open netpen sites is a concern both for regulators and industry and is closely regulated in all areas of Canada. Existing regulatory modelling tools (DEPOMOD) and sampling techniques (cores and light weight grabs) used to predict and monitor waste deposition and benthic impacts have generally been developed for use in areas with muddy bottoms. Questions have been raised about the applicability of these tools with different substrates, such as rocky or sandy bottoms, or if they need to be refined for use in these areas.

Shelburne, NS is a developing aquaculture area where the benthic environment is sandy and highly disturbed and, as such, the benthic cores and grabs usually used for regulatory sampling do not work well. Modelling deposition in this area is also challenging because very limited benthic and oceanographic information is available to calibrate models and, problematically, the dynamic environment requires that models account for the resuspension and movement of deposited wastes.

The purpose of this project is to test several benthic sampling approaches (grab samplers, ROVs, still image and video camera systems, acoustic echo sounder and side-scan sonar systems) to identify the best method for regulatory environmental sampling in dynamic, sandy bottom areas. Additionally, to improve modelling predictions, oceanographic conditions including water currents, wave activity, and water column profiling will be monitored during the fall-winter disturbance season. In addition, a benthic characterization study will be conducted to better categorize the benthic environment (e.g., sediment grain size, organic matter, sulphide content).

Apr. 2012 – Mar. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)

Project team: Blythe Chang, Fred Page, Mark McLean, Ed Parker, Herb Vandermuelen, Sara Scouten (DFO)

collaborator: Mike Szemerda (Cooke Aquaculture Ltd.)


Assessing and mitigating risk from a diversifying aquaculture industry: the potential for interaction between escapee and wild Atlantic Cod

As with any industry, there are environmental concerns associated with aquaculture. These include pollution, disease and parasite transmission, and interactions with wild fish when farmed individuals escape. Our knowledge of escapee/wild fish interactions is focused on salmonids, but diversification of the industry has resulted in culture of other species that behave very differently from salmon. Atlantic Cod, for instance, interact much more with sea-pen netting and escape at much higher rates than salmon. Cod will also spawn inside the cage, releasing fertilized eggs into the environment even when the cultured animals do not escape.

Our project was based at Memorial University and had both local and European collaborators. It focused on what motivates cod to escape from cages, where they went once they escaped, and how they interacted during spawning with wild cod. The ultimate goal was to ascertain areas of particular environmental concern and identify mitigation opportunities before industry practices become entrenched.

summer 2009 – ongoing

Funded by: Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) co-funded by: DFO; Fish Food & Allied Workers

project lead: Ian Fleming, Craig Purchase (MUN)

Project team: Ian Fleming, Craig Purchase (MUN); Edward Trippel, John Brattey (DFO)

collaborators: DFO; Fish Food & Allied Workers; SINTEF/EU Consortium; Ocean Tracking Network (Dalhousie U.); Cod Genome Project


Tying sutures after implanting an acoustic tag
Releasing a tagged cod in Bay Bulls
Cod morphology study
Net biting experiments

Determination of the potential spatial overlap and interaction between commercial fisheries (American Lobster, Snow Crab) and finfish aquaculture activities in Connaigre Bay, Newfoundland

There is rarely an opportunity to collect and compare ecological data before, during, and after a salmon farming site has been approved and under production. This four-year project will allow for the collection of environmental and biological data at two newly approved salmon aquaculture sites in Connaigre Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador — a bay that has not yet held salmon production sites. Pertinent data will be collected prior to the sites being established and during the full production cycle, as well as during the fallow period. In the siting area, there is particular concern for alterations to crab and lobster habitat and resulting changes in habitat utilization, as a result this research will also examine potential changes in the benthic environment that could potentially impact lobster and Snow Crab populations.

The ultimate goal of the research project will be to identify any measurable impacts caused by the introduction of fish farming on the commercial species currently harvested in Connaigre Bay.

The outcomes of this project will provide valuable information that will inform future site development initiatives and contribute to the sustainability of both fishing and the fish farming industry on the south coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

aug. 2012 – may 2016

Funded by: DFO – Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP) co-funded by: Cold Ocean Salmon Inc.

project lead: Gehan Mabrouk (DFO)

Project team: Lee Sheppard, Dounia Hamoutene, Andry Ratsimandresy, Dwight Drover, Jens Currie, Pierre Goulet, Don Stansbury (DFO); Jon Grant (Dalhousie U.)

collaborators: Jennifer Woodland (Cold Ocean Salmon Inc.)


Validation of DEPOMOD with a comparison of visual techniques for observing spatial and temporal variability in the benthos at active and fallowed finfish sites in Newfoundland

Most finfish aquaculture sites in Newfoundland are located over deep waters (>100 m) with hard substrates and low currents which results in high monitoring costs relative to other Atlantic provinces. This is due to the need for more expensive equipment and technology use in gaining information about conditions of the sea floor. The current monitoring program was based on the assumption that deep water sites with hard substrates are not depositional; however, organic particulate have been found to accumulate at some sites. In this project, techniques are being investigated that will provide a better understanding of the physical and biological processes near finfish aquaculture sites over hard substrates.

A model of particle dispersion, DEPOMOD, is being evaluated as a monitoring tool for depositional processes at finfish aquaculture sites in Newfoundland. Data collection for model inputs has involved the deployment of sediment traps and current meters. The response of the benthic community to organic inputs is also being studied through the use of various methods of underwater video sampling (drop cameras, remotely operated vehicles, time-lapse cameras).

may 2010 – mar. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP) co-funded by: Cold Ocean Salmon Inc.; Northern Harvest Sea Farms

project lead: Andry Ratsimandresy (DFO)

Project team: Danny Ings, Gehan Mabrouk, Fred Page, Dwight Drover, Dounia Hamoutene, Randy Losier, Sharon Kenny, Terry Bungay (DFO)

collaborators: Jennifer Woodland (Cold Ocean Salmon Inc.); Jennifer Caines (Northern Harvest Sea Farms)


Evaluation of the FVCOM modelling system to map the far-field dispersal of aquaculture waste

Particulate aquaculture wastes, such as fish faeces and feed pellets, can accumulate beneath and near farm operations. Near-field waste accumulation is relatively well understood and can be predicted using depositional modelling tools such as DEPOMOD. In contrast, the far-field distribution and potential environmental effects of particulate waste and material that is re-suspended from beneath aquaculture cages is more complex and difficult to predict. With increasing concerns over the potential far-field effects of aquaculture, including cumulative effects and ecosystem interactions, it is necessary to be able to predict the quantity and range of this dispersal. The goal of this study is to develop a coupled hydrodynamic-sediment transport model capable of mapping the far-field dispersal of aquaculture wastes from a single farm site in southwest New Brunswick using the Finite Volume Coastal Ocean Model (FVCOM).

The hydrodynamic component of the FVCOM model has been used and validated for ocean currents in southwest New Brunswick. Additionally, the particle tracking component of this model, for use with passive particles, has been successfully employed to infer the movement of and the dispersal of dye which is analogous to therapeutant transport. The fully coupled hydrodynamic-sediment transport model will add active particle transport by defining variables such as settling velocity, critical erosion shear stress, and erosion rate, which are necessary to predict the deposition and transport of aquaculture waste. To develop the model, parameters obtained from previous and current research on the transport dynamics of aquaculture waste will be used. The model will be validated using site specific data collected from a salmon aquaculture site in southwest New Brunswick.

The success of this proof-of-concept modelling project will help facilitate improved predictions regarding the transport of wastes generated from aquaculture operations and consequently the potential environmental interactions associated with aquaculture operations in the far-field.

Apr. 2012 – Mar. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)

Project team: Brent Law, Yongsheng Wu, Terri Sutherland (DFO)

collaborators: Fred Page, Susan Haigh, Randy Losier (DFO)


Quantifying benthic transport of aquaculture waste material for inclusion in predictive models

A national strategy for understanding and predicting aquaculture waste transport is required by DFO Habitat Management and Ecosystems and Fisheries Management. Current models are unable to predict aquaculture waste transport because of the inability to measure the cohesive nature and transport properties of faecal material, waste pellets, and their interaction with sediment in suspension and on the seabed. The purpose of the project is to develop a data set of variables that can be used to initialize coupled hydrodynamic-sediment transport models to predict aquaculture waste resuspension and transport for use nationally. The first goal is to create a data matrix of transport coefficients of both finfish and bivalve aquaculture waste material to predict the transport capability of the material when resuspended. A variety of feed pellet types and finfish and shellfish faeces will be exposed to a range of seabed types, simple to complex, under controlled hydrodynamic conditions. This matrix will be derived from both laboratory and field studies. The second goal is to collaborate with the Scottish Association for Marine Science to initialize a beta-version of DEPOMOD that will incorporate a flexible resuspension module suitable for Canadian waters and to discuss model parameters and initializations of FVCOM with modelers at DFO.

Apr. 2011 – Mar. 2013

Funded by: DFO – Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)

project lead: Terri Sutherland, Brent Law (DFO)

Project team: Mike Foreman, Fred Page, Yongshen Wu, March Klaver (DFO); Chris Cromey, Scottish Association for Marine Science, U.K.; Carl Amos (University of Southampton, U.K.)


In-laboratory erosion measurements of mussel aquaculture waste using a Gust microcosm erosion chamber and a sandy seabed
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