- Seasonal shellfish mortalities at aquaculture facilities in Baynes Sound generally occur during summer months and can vary greatly from year to year. Can these mortalities be attributed to conditions in the marine environment?
- Actionable environmental intelligence is lacking in this key region.
- A shore-based high-frequency measurement system will be installed at the Fanny Bay Shellfish Hatchery to monitor conditions in the incoming seawater that reflect near-surface Baynes Sound water, with data broadcast through the IPACOA data portal.
- Instrumentation will first be provided by the Hakai Institute and then replaced with BCSGA-owned equipment.
- Discrete samples will be collected by industry partners at 10 select sites throughout Baynes Sound for one year in order to determine environmental coherence with the high-resolution dataset.
- Analysis of industry-collected data will be conducted by the Hakai Institute and provided to the BCSGA in the form of a final report, including quarterly updates and in a peer-reviewed open access publication.
- The industry-collected dataset will greatly augment any additional sampling efforts that develop in Baynes Sound.
Members of the British Columbia Shellfish Growers Association (BCSGA) who farm in Baynes Sound have reported mortalities of Pacific Oyster that are roughly in the two-year class. These reports suggest a different mechanism compared to the mortalities reported at shellfish hatchery facilities on the US West Coast (Barton et al., 2015). It is unclear whether these mortalities are linked to environmental conditions. A major limiting factor is the general lack of reliable data on conditions in the marine environment.
The shellfish aquaculture industry strongly feels there is a need to monitor conditions to help address a variety of issues – from husbandry mitigation to fluctuating environmental conditions and from diseases that may be responsible for large sporadic mortalities to changes in the supply of food quality and quantity and potential increases in harmful algal blooms. So much is unknown.
A number of entities, including DFO, MEOPAR and ONC, are striving to attain high quality data for conditions in Baynes Sound – an area that houses a significant portion of the BC shellfish industry. The Hakai Institute has unique capacity to use high-frequency robust and shore-based measurement systems as well as discrete sampling processing capability to greater enhance the environmental intelligence gathering effort in Baynes Sound with a focus on abiotic stressors (temperature, hypoxia, ocean acidification).
The BCSGA feels there is an opportunity to collect reliable, long-term data through partnership with the Hakai Institute and collaboration with other entities. This framework of targeted data collection can then be built upon with biological stressor investigations, e.g., virus, HABs.
Environmental intelligence gathering in Baynes Sound will take a phased approach. Aquaculture facility-based instrumentation will be provided by the Hakai Institute prior to the BCSGA attaining funding for an industry-owned Burke-o-Lator. Initial equipment will directly measure temperature, salinity, and carbon dioxide partial pressure (pCO2) from incoming seawater into Fanny Bay Oysters at high temporal resolution (1 Hz). Seawater comes into the facility from a seabed fixed intake at 6 m below mean low water (i.e., within the surface mixed layer). Data from the high-resolution node will be broadcast live to the public via a web-based data portal (ipacoa.org).
Following the BCSGA attaining needed funding support, a Burke-o-Lator will permanently replace the initial instrumentation and be maintained by the Hakai Institute. Two additional aspects will determine the environmental coherence of this temporally well-resolved data collection effort: (1) spatially distributed discrete samples (at 10 sites) collected by shellfish industry partners on a weekly basis, and (2) near-monthly CTD profiles made at the Fanny Bay Oysters seawater intake. The Hakai Institute is committed to the analysis of these data, and will report on the results directly to the BCSGA in the form of a final report including quarterly updates, and in a peer-reviewed open access publication.
With the data collection in place, the BCSGA would like to partner with farmers, government, post secondary and public sector entities to set up biological monitoring programs – chemical, phytoplankton and disease – to use collected data to help work out the reasons for sporadic shellfish mortalities, including different husbandry techniques and the nutritional value of phytoplankton. We have been in dialogue with potential partners and have garnered a great deal of interest.