By Andy Walker
The PEI Aquaculture Alliance is calling for a more co-ordinated approach to tackling environmental issues facing the fishing industry.
During a recent presentation before a committee of the Island legislature, executive director Ann Worth called for the establishment of a multi-sector industry group she said would increase co-operation and align resources. She also called for more research to study the impact of climate change on aquaculture.
“We need to work in partnership with government to conduct this important research that would include looking at the stresses on our species from the changes that we’re seeing, including the obvious: warming of our water is a key change and what the impacts of that are,” she told the committee.
The executive director is also hoping government will sign a memorandum of understanding with her group to help its efforts in protecting bays and estuaries. She added, “We see an opportunity to work in partnership with government to enhance our efforts to promote various aspects of water quality and strong environmental stewardship.”
She said some informal talks have already taken place with the agricultural industry aimed at developing best practices and proactive policies that will protect water resources. Worth said it is also incumbent on government to periodically review environmental legislation to ensure it is working.
“Effective regulation that fiercely protects our water resource is what we are all collectively after here,” she said. “It is, frankly, not secondary or second tier or anything that should be scrapped from a budget line. It’s foundational and impacts us all.”
The alliance represents the mussel, oyster and finfish sectors, adding aquaculture is a $223-million industry in the province. Worth added that success is dependent on having clean water.
“The industry believes and demonstrates that shellfish aquaculture can be undertaken in harmony with the environment, and that the sustainable use of the marine environment is a shared responsibility requiring a climate of cooperation, among all resource users and regulatory authorities,” the executive director said.
Worth said nitrates are a key challenge facing aquaculture producers. She explained increased nitrate levels can help spur the development of macro algae like sea lettuce that can smother shellfish. She said the problem has resulted in significant losses as a result of problems resulting from nutrients.
“The need to reduce nitrates or nutrient loading is real and immediate, to do this, we need to look at the collective sources of where nitrates come from,” she said. “Nitrate sources would typically include, but not be limited to, sewage treatment facilities, septic systems, groundwater, and runoff from agricultural land, adjacent lawns and golf courses, to name just a few.”
The executive director said the alliance is willing to work with other groups like the PEI Federation of Agriculture to reduce nutrient loading.
Other significant threats to our bays and estuaries include siltation, and the impact of chemicals. She added, “Protecting our bays and estuaries isn’t optional or voluntary. It’s critical and essential. We need to ensure we have the right regulatory tools in place that are effectively working to ensure the protection of our water resource.”
As for climate change, she said there is a growing problem of ducks eating mussel leases. She said the disappearing ice gives the ducks greater access to the shellfish in open water.
“We need to better understand the changing migration of sea ducks and their preferred habitat. The more we understand the more effective we can be with deterring measures,” Worth said.
She said research is also needed to help deal with invasive species adding “Developing innovative methods to treat existing problems is something we need to continue to do more of, and we need resources to do it.”