Government spends $30K to study invasive species

James McLeod
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The provincial government is spending $30,000 to study a slimy, gelatinous invasive species called vase tunicate, which has been spotted in Placentia Bay and could threaten the province’s aquaculture industry.

Fisheries Minister Keith Hutchings was at the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association (NAIA) Friday morning to make the funding announcement.

“Vase Tunicate are small marine animals that spend most of their lives attached to an underwater substrate. They are found on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and can be spread by ocean currents as well as by human activities,” he said. “The problem with this vase tunicate is that they can out-compete other organisms for food and space, altering natural community dynamics.”

Cyr Couturier, executive director with NAIA, said that in other parts of Atlantic Canada, the species has been a major problem.

“In Prince Edward Island when it was first noticed, it was not thought to be invasive,” he said. “People who were in business for 25 years lost all of their farms.”

Research this summer is being done by Dr. Cynthia McKenzie, who’s also studied the problems caused by the green crab invasion.

McKenzie said they found some vase tunicate last summer, but aggressively tried to get rid of it. This year, they’ll follow up.

“We’re thinking with early detection and rapid response that we’re going to try to prevent it from spreading anywhere else in Newfoundland,” she said.

Hutchings said that if they can figure it out in Placentia Bay, hopefully they can use the same techniques elsewhere.

“This funding will continue the study of the vase tunicate population in the bay and will support the evaluation of mitigation techniques,” he said. “If these techniques are successful, they can be used to control the spread of the tunicate in any area of the province where it is subsequently found.”

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Organizations: Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland Placentia Bay

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Recent comments

  • Not impressed
    May 10, 2014 - 08:45

    What about the invasive species of farmed Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead Trout that aquaculture operators have introduced to NL waters? Does our wild fish and environment mean anything to these polluters? There will be no food on my table from this industry until they clean up their act.