The aim is to protect fish and fish habitat by providing indicators of how well the environment is performing around aquaculture sites.
One of the major concerns with any kind of aquaculture in a marine environment is organic enrichment: solid waste products from either salmon or mussels falling to the bottom and the organic matter in those materials decaying on the bottom causing a change in the system.
It's been known for quite some time that there’s a need to further develop methods and add to the tools that we have for monitoring the oxic state of bottom sediments at aquaculture sites.
Part of our research design was to take our tools into many different types of aquaculture sites and to make sure that the tools are performing adequately under a wide range of conditions.
Our research uses a series of musicolumns that we set up on the seafloor. Each cage is subjected to a given level of organic enrichment from mussel aquaculture. We go down the bottom and take a series of sediment cores. From each of those sediment cores, we're going to evaluate older methods on which the regulations are currently based as well as newer methods that we think may be more stable.
It's important to assess these tools in the real world and also in the hands of a number of people because that's where these tools are going to be applied.
Once implemented, these results will give us confidence in the actual level of impact at many different aquaculture sites and so this information can be used to make decisions to improve sustainability.