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Coastal Environmental Baseline Program projects in the Port of Saint John, New Brunswick

The Saint John Harbour is a major marine port with high shipping traffic. It is an urban center with adjacent dredging activity, discharges of municipal wastewater, and industrial effluents from oil refining, brewing, and pulp and paper production. The level of activity in the Saint John Harbour makes the local marine system and surrounding shorelines vulnerable to cumulative impacts and environmental change.

Terrain map of Port of Saint John study site. The study area is a marine area highlighted in light green. The boundary extends from the city of Saint John in the north, to Cape Spencer in the southeast and to the Musquash Harbour in the southwest, forming an triangle-like shape. There are two small islands in the northwest of the study area. Along with the study area, Musquash Harbour is shown in dark green, as well as the Protected Area adjacent to the study site and important bird areas. The scale of the map is 10km.

Map of the Port of Saint John, New Brunswick.

Description Timeframe Funding amount

Establishing a nekton biodiversity baseline for estuarine environments in southwestern New Brunswick

Funding recipient: Eastern Charlotte Waterways Inc.

Project summary: The project will involve sampling baseline data of fish and nekton (actively swimming aquatic organisms). Researchers will evaluate the fish community in multiple habitats, including saltmarshes, in the Musquash Estuary Marine Protected Area (MPA); conduct multi-year assessments of the potential impacts of human sources of contamination on the health of the estuary across multiple habitats; and compare the area's fish community to reference locations outside of Musquash MPA.

2018-2022 $208,000

Establishing baselines for the sources and impacts of underwater noise in Saint John Harbour

Funding recipient: Eastern Charlotte Waterways Inc.

Project summary: This project will establish a series of baseline measurements of underwater noise in and around Saint John Harbour. These measurements will characterize the overall soundscape, the most prominent sources of industrial shipping noise and the impact of noise on the presence and communication space of baleen whales. Researchers will examine underwater noise data, which was collected by Eastern Charlotte Waterways near the entrance to Saint John Harbour in 2016 to 2017. The raw data will be analyzed to form a credible baseline for underwater noise levels and impacts. These baseline measurements will provide greater understanding and support decision-making to support marine mammal biodiversity in Saint John Harbour.

2018-2019 $111,820

Mapping and ground-truthing of fish harvesters' knowledge of surface currents in the Bay of Fundy area

Funding recipient: Fundy North Fishermen's Association

Project summary: This project will improve information available to decision-makers on surface currents in the Bay of Fundy. Fish harvesters' knowledge can fill some gaps in oceanographic data by documenting onsite observations (ground-truthing) and using that knowledge to direct a targeted drifter study. There are 4 components to this study: 

  1. mapping fish harvesters' knowledge of surface currents in the Bay of Fundy (with a focus on Saint John Harbour)
  2. developing hypothetical story maps by fish harvesters and scientists
  3. conducting surface drifter studies (with drifters released in Saint John Harbour) to ground-truth current knowledge
  4. conducting a workshop with fish harvesters and oceanographers to discuss results and reporting
2018-2022 $344,685

Quantitative baseline survey of ichthyoplankton, invertebrate zooplankton and microplastics in Saint John Harbour

Funding recipient: Huntsman Marine Science Centre

Project summary: Researchers will gather baseline data on the zooplankton communities of Saint John Harbour. This data is highly important to understanding ecosystem relationships in the study area, as zooplankton, together with phytoplankton, form the basis of the food chain. The microplastics component will provide baseline data on environmental contaminants resulting from human activities, the first step in understanding their impacts on the Saint John Harbour ecosystem. 

2018-2019 $83,917

Community-based monitoring in Saint John Harbour

Funding recipient: Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP) Saint John Inc.

Project summary: Researchers will gather data on various water quality parameters in nearshore areas of Saint John Harbour. They will also conduct lab analyses of collected water samples for fecal coliforms, total suspended solids, orthophosphate and ammonia. Fish communities will be assessed through fyke net and seine sampling in nearshore and estuarine environments.

2018-2022 $367,700

Characterizing harbour seal populations in Saint John Harbour

Funding recipient: Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP) Saint John Inc.

Project summary: This project will investigate the current population of harbour seals in Saint John Harbour and its nearshore and estuarine environments. Researchers will collect data on seasonal changes in harbour seal numbers and distribution along the southern New Brunswick coast. They will employ standard observational aerial and shipboard surveys and satellite-tag individual harbour seals to monitor their population in the study area.

2018-2022 $202,600

Characterizing invasive parasite occurrence and pathways in threatened migratory fish in Saint John Harbour

Funding recipient: North Shore Micmac District Council – Anqotum Resource Management

Project summary: Researchers will collect baseline data on invasive parasites in threatened migratory fish, focusing on the infection of American eels with swim bladder parasites and Atlantic salmon with external ectoparasites. Such parasites are seen as important indicators of environmental health and human impacts in Saint John Harbour. The migratory species under consideration are culturally significant to the North Shore Micmac. The data obtained through sampling various life stages in target species and through stable isotope analysis will assist in providing a more complete picture of the spatial and temporal aspects of infection in the Saint John River. This data will also help quantify the occurrence of parasitic infection and its impact on migratory host fish.

2018-2022 $317,224

Assessing baseline shorebird and seabird data in the Port of Saint John area

Funding recipient: Nature NB

Project summary: This project will involve conducting shorebird and seabird surveys in various marine, coastal and shoreline environments, such as Saint's Rest Marsh and Beach, Musquash Estuary and Manawagonish Island. These Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) overlap with coastal areas managed by the Nature Trust of New Brunswick, while the Nature Conservancy of Canada owns a significant portion of the marsh, shoreline and coastal areas in the Musquash Estuary Marine Protected Area. Many shorebirds and seabirds rely on coastal IBAs and other areas for feeding, migration and breeding. Through updated shorebird and seabird surveys, this project will advance our collective knowledge of the importance of these habitats and our ability to evaluate the ecological health of marine and coastal areas in and around the Port of Saint John.

2018-2022 $192,125

Characterizing conserved and priority coastal and tidal wetlands in and around the Port of Saint John

Funding recipient: Nature Conservancy of Canada

Project summary: This project will involve collecting comprehensive baseline data on the state of coastal and tidal wetlands in the Port of Saint John. The data will be collected according to the Wetland Ecosystem Services Protocol for Atlantic Canada (WESP-AC), a standardised method for rapidly assessing important natural functions of coastal and tidal wetlands in a study area. The baseline data will enable researchers to assess the current condition of wetlands and their ecosystem benefits to support future management decisions on wetlands.

2018-2022 $86,940

Diversity and abundance of aquatic invasive species and linkage to feeding ecology of the Atlantic Wolffish in the Bay of Fundy

Funding recipient: Maliseet Nation Conservation Council

Project summary: This project aims to investigate the basic ecology of the Atlantic Wolffish through the first known directed study of the species in the Bay of Fundy. The study will focus on behaviour, movements and habitat preferences of the Atlantic Wolffish as well as the potential effects of aquatic invasive species on prey availability. SCUBA surveys will identify tunicates and coffin box (marine invertebrate species) and their approximate colony size and proximity to known wolffish habitat. Stable isotopes from wolffish tissues will be measured for their estimated carbon-to-nitrogen ratio in order to evaluate diet contents. Satellite telemetry will provide additional information on the behaviour and movement patterns of wolffish.

2018-2022 $404,686

Collection of baseline information on water column conditions and contaminants using caged blue mussels in Saint John Harbour

Funding recipient: Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick

Project summary: This project will involve collecting baseline information on the marine biological environment and contaminants by measuring the growth, survival, reproduction and contaminant levels of caged blue mussels. The baseline data collected will help to better understand water quality conditions and the potential effects of contaminants on the marine environment and species living in Saint John Harbour. The project will develop the capacity of Wolastoqey (Maliseet) communities to participate more meaningfully in marine ecosystem co-management and planning to address concerns about cumulative impacts on the marine environment. Wolastoqey fisheries crews will be involved in fieldwork activities and have opportunities for training in field and laboratory techniques.

2019-2022 $186,276

Quantifying the presence of microplastics in the digestive tract of American Lobster sampled in Saint John Harbour

Funding recipient: Passamaquoddy Recognition Group Inc.

Project summary: This project will establish a baseline understanding of the amount of microplastics consumed by American Lobster, an important traditional food source for the Peskotomuhkati Nation. Microplastics may have an impact on the overall health of marine species and ecosystems, which the Peskotomuhkati have great interest in studying and protecting. This baseline information will guide future endeavours and research priorities for the Peskotomuhkati regarding lobster science and microplastics. The project aims to foster relationships between the Peskotomuhkati Nation, the science community and the fishing community that operates in Peskotomuhkati traditional territory. The study will enable the Peskotomuhkati to play a significant role in collecting baseline fishery science data, thereby gaining a greater understanding of the overall health of the marine ecosystem in and around their traditional territory. The potential identification of microplastics in lobster will improve understanding of potential sources as well as the nature of microplastic pollution in Saint John Harbour.

2019-2022 $193,876
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