Invasive species, garbage threaten coastal waters: DFO

Clayton Hunt
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Cynthia McKenzie and Laura Park, two officials with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), were in the Coast of Bays recently to talk to interested parties on the serious topics of aquatic invasive species (AIS) and marine debris.

Laura Pack, a DFO senior oceans biologist (l) and Cynthia Mackenzie, a DFO research scientist, at the Coast of Bays’ Coastal Planning Committee’s presentation at Belleoram on April 15. — Photo by Clayton Hunt/The Coaster

The presentations were organized by the Coast of Bays’ Coastal Planning Committee in partnership with Shell Canada, the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association and the provincial and federal governments.

The information sessions were held in Conne River on April 14 and in Belleoram and Harbour Breton on April 15.

McKenzie, a research scientist with DFO, said that aquatic invasive species (AIS), sometimes referred to as aquatic alien species, are species of plants and animals and microorganisms introduced by human action outside their usual habitat.

These alien species can be dangerous as their introduction into a new area may threaten the environment, the economy and human health.

“We want people to be able to recognize the different AIS in the Coast of Bays; to know what to do to remove them and to report any findings either through DFO’s website of our toll-free telephone number,” she said.

Although there are a number of AIS in Newfoundland waters such as the vase tunicate, the golden star and the violet tunicate, the most worrisome alien species in our waters is the green crab.

This species has become a predator in North American waters and is a very serious problem in the state of Maine where it has caused significant problems in the clam industry.

In Placentia Bay, the green crab has become a problem for lobster harvesters as they have been found in lobster pots where they eat the bait. The species has also been a problem for the juvenile lobster population.

According to McKenzie, the green crab problem in Newfoundland is worse than anywhere in North America except for the state of Maine.

Whereas the predator was only found in Placentia Bay previously, it has now turned up in Fortune Bay around the Pool’s Cove area.

“We don’t know if the crab moved here from Placentia Bay or if it was introduced by some other source. I want to talk to as many people as possible to determine where this species may be found,” McKenzie said.

“Sometimes green crab die in really cold weather. Whenever, and wherever, they can they go deep to survive although they may not be able to do this around a shoreline. We’re hoping that this unusually cold winter killed off a whole class size to help mitigate the problem in Fortune Bay.

“However, we don’t know if this actually happened. We will be trying to catch them before they get a real foothold in this area and start to spread.”

Other alien species can be a problem too.

McKenzie said that several mussel-growing operations in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are no longer in business because of the alien species, the vase tunicate. The closures were caused as the alien species added so much effort and activity to the operations which contributed to an overall higher cost.

Laura Park, a senior oceans biologist with DFO, spoke on the damaging issue of marine debris during the sessions.

Marine Debris is the general term for garbage in the oceans and on our beaches.

As much as 90 per cent of it is plastic and other synthetic materials made from petroleum.

Marine debris is a problem as it can choke and strangle fish, birds, turtles and other marine life.

Sea creatures also consume plastic pieces which can carry such deadly chemicals as PCBs that become concentrated as small creatures are eaten by larger ones.

This disrupts the food chain, threatening the health of all creatures that depend on the oceans for food including humans.


The Coaster

Organizations: Coastal Planning Committee, Shell Canada, Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association North American

Geographic location: Bays, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland Conne River Belleoram Fortune Bay Maine North America Maine.Whereas Cove Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island Laura Park

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