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Research Document 2021/044

Review of monitoring activities in Basin Head Marine Protected Area in the context of their effectiveness in evaluating attainment of conservation objectives

By Joseph, V., Thériault, M.-H., Novaczek, I., Coffin, M., Cairns, D., Nadeau, A., Boudreau, M., Plourde, M.-A., Quijon, P.A. and Tummon Flynn, P.


The Basin Head Marine Protected Area (MPA), established in 2005 under the Oceans Act mandate, is a shallow marine lagoon located on the northeastern shore of Prince Edward Island (PEI). The purpose of the MPA designation is to protect and conserve a unique strain of Irish moss (Chondrus crispus) and its habitat. When assessed, the Irish moss biomass in Basin Head lagoon had declined by more than 99 % between 1980 to 2008. The Basin Head MPA management plan identified four conservation objectives and a monitoring program was initiated for each conservation objective. Monitoring activities have included assessments of the abundance and distribution of Irish moss, assessment of blooms of sea lettuce (Ulva spp.), water quality indicators, and monitoring of fish and crustaceans. In recent years, there have been concerted efforts to understand threats to Irish moss-mussel clumps including heat stress, seasonal hypoxia and bottom smothering by Ulva (eutrophication); smothering by organic-rich silt, marsh sods and debris; storm surges and winter ice scour. Efforts to restore Irish moss in Basin Head’s Northeast Arm by outplanting artificially created moss-mussel clumps, and removing Green Crab have also been initiated. Department of Fisheries and Oceans Gulf Region Marine Planning and Conservation Program requested a review and assessment of the monitoring activities undertaken in Basin Head over the last decade to determine their effectiveness in providing the information needed to evaluate whether the conservation objectives are being met. Information provided for each of the four conservation objectives include ecological indicators, monitoring regime and methods, ecological threshold if available and data analyses and results. A variety of short-term field experiments were conducted, as well as qualitative and quantitative observations over periods of 1 to 5 years. We present some preliminary findings that provide rationale for restoration activities and insights into possible monitoring approaches.

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