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Current research

Description Code Eco-region Duration Date Created
Small craft harbour project

DFO is studying whether harbour structures create or detract from habitat for marine life. The team sampled breakwaters and sediment of three small craft harbours to identify, count and weigh invertebrates present. Further research will help to inform the design of future coastal structures.

Principal investigator: Steve Macdonald

Understanding the physiological response of fish to multiple stressors

Using a holistic approach, PSEC researchers are studying the multiple factors that can impact fish migration physiology and fate, including energy use during migration,stress hormones and linkages with reproductive hormones, and metabolites. This research helps anticipate migration mortality and reproductive success to provide fishery managers with information used to implement mitigation measures.

Principal investigator: David Patterson

Log handling area project

Log handling areas, also known as log dumps, are foreshore locations where harvested timber enters the water for sorting, booming and transport. Dislodged bark and whole logs can sink to smother the sea floor, interrupting natural aerobic processes and altering biota; recovery can be very slow. Sonar technologies may allow the delineatation of the area and the depositional thickness of wood debris. Results inform best management practices for recovery and remediation, and improve site selection regulations.

Principal investigator: Herb Herunter

Oil spill preparedness projects

DFO and Environment and Climate Change Canada performed intertidal surveys of BC’s north coast to provide a preliminary baseline of physical, chemical and biological information in preparation for oil spill response strategies. The focus was on “unconsolidated” shorelines, which are made up of boulder, gravel sand or silt substrate. These habitats would retain more oil, be harder to clean and take longer to recover, should an oil spill occur. Surveys were recently extended to southern coastal locations and analyses will compare northern and southern resource databases.

Principal investigator: Steve Macdonald

Developing hard-bottom indicators from BC archived benthic video surveys associated with aquaculture activities

A significant knowledge gap exists regarding the biological responses of benthic organisms to organic enrichment on hard-bottom or rocky substrates relative to those that live in soft substrate settings. Benthic video surveys were carried out to examine potential interactions between aquaculture activities and the environment on mixed substrates and rock-cliff settings. The project focused on the identification of indicator species that aligned directly or indirectly with organic enrichment gradients.

Principal investigator: Terri Sutherland

Baynes Sound shellfish carrying capacity assessment

In BC, shellfish production sites are located primarily on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Currently, little research exists around the ecological capacity of shellfish production in sheltered bays. Since production is influenced by a balance of water quality, hydrodynamics and food supply, a carrying capacity assessment will examine this balance and identify any bay-wide limitations due to possible resource competition or a shift in ecosystem functioning.

Principal investigator: Terri Sutherland

Understanding the development of harmful algal blooms (HABS)

Harmful algal blooms are capable of causing a variety of negative impacts to culture fish including, mechanical damage, natural toxins and biological demand. This project will study the frequency of occurrence of these harmful algal blooms in relation to changing water attributes and will increase our understanding of phytoplankton bloom development.

Principal investigator: Terri Sutherland

Reduction of ammonia and solids from Chinook Salmon culture facilities

This project is exploring how feed regimes may be used to reduce nitrogen excretion into the environment during chinook salmon production. Results will help improve the ecological sustainability of farmed chinook and may be applicable to the culture of all salmon species.

Principal investigator: Ian Forster

P-12-01-001 Pacific: Vancouver Island West Coast 2012 2013- 2014  
The effect of dietary camelina oil on health of salmon

This project seeks to examine the influence of fish oil substitution by camelina oil on susceptibility to intestinal inflammation of chinook salmon under culture conditions. Results will support development of environmentally sustainable fish feeds and better management practices surrounding disease impacts on farmed finfish.

Principal investigator: Ian Forster

15-2-P-03   2015 - 2016  
Development of diets and feeding strategies for the implementation of sea lice cleaner fish in salmon farms in BC

This project is an integral component of a larger project to establish a commercial perch sea lice cleaner fish industry to support salmon aquaculture in BC. Research to date has provided clear evidence that kelp and pile perch are efficient at cleaning sea lice off infested salmon. In order for this research to advance to the next stage, it is vital to determine the optimal diets to feed the perch for sustained growth, health and welfare both prior to and after deployment in the farms.

Principal investigator: Ian Forster

17-P-03 Pacific 2-year project 2017
Risk assessment of fish with novel traits

DFO has been researching the potential environmental impacts of genetically engineered salmon on the PSEC site since 1991. This work is internationally recognized for its objective, non-commercial risk assessment science on genetically engineered fish. More than 35 species of fish have been genetically engineered globally and some are already commercially available. CAER is one of the only labs in the world that is researching these fish to understand their potential environmental risks. This research is needed so that Canada and other nations can create robust regulations that avoid environmental impacts.

Principal investigator: Robert Devlin

Improving fertilization success of Arctic charr

Wild Arctic charr populations have a history of overharvest and remaining small-scale fisheries are under tight government regulation. Given a high market demand for good quality product, a high market price and the suitability of this species for production under high densities, Arctic charr seems an excellent choice for the development of a sustainable, land-based aquaculture industry.

Principal investigators: Ian Forster and Robert Devlin

17-P-04 Pacific 2-year project 2017
Aquaculture Monitoring Program

This national program explores the environmental impacts of marine finfish and shellfish farms. Launched in 2017, the Aquaculture Monitoring Program involves testing for antibiotics, pesticides, organic enrichment and trace metals within the sediments surrounding sea farms. The goal of this program is to measure the ecological footprint of the farms on the sea floor, to help assess the long-term impacts and inform aquaculture management and regulation.

Principal investigator: Theraesa Coyle

Acoustic Impacts to Southern Resident Killer Whales

Acoustic impacts have been identified as a primary threat to the recovery of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population. Understanding the night time foraging behaviour of Resident Killer Whales will assist in focusing mitigation efforts to reduce loss of foraging opportunities caused by acoustic masking. Nighttime foraging effort and foraging success is evaluated using digital acoustic tags, and data obtained from Northern Resident Killer Whale populations will be compared to both daytime and nighttime Southern Resident Killer Whale foraging data.

Principal investigator: Sheila Thornton

Ambient Noise Monitoring in Southern Resident Killer Whale habitat

Autonomous acoustic recorders have been deployed in key locations throughout the critical habitat of the Southern Resident Killer Whale for year-round assessment of habitat use by Southern Resident Killer Whales and for evaluation of soundscape properties. These recorders monitor changes in anthropogenic noise and allow for evaluation of mitigation measures, such as vessel speed restrictions and vessel lane position, and identify changes in the presence of Southern Resident Killer Whales over time.

Principal investigators: Sheila Thornton, Pacific Science Enterprise Centre and Svein Vagle, Institute of Ocean Sciences

Ecology of nearshore systems, kelp forest productivity and connection to other environments

Principal investigator: Hannah Stewart

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