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An Atlantic Canadian seafood biotech company says it is seeing the effects of warming ocean temperatures as levels of cold-water algae it harvests have plunged in one region.
Acadian Seaweed transforms seaweed Gnarled Ascophyllum in the ingredients used in many food, household and fertilizer products.
But the southern chain of Ascophyllum in Massachusetts is now much less productive than it used to be, according to Algues Acadiennes CEO JP Deveau.
“Warming water is having an impact there,” Deveau said this week during a break at an Ocean Frontier Institute conference in Halifax.
“The question we ask ourselves is what will happen here in the future in Atlantic Canada? Does our Ascophyllum will the actions be impacted? And that’s certainly a big concern from our perspective.”
Deveau was part of a discussion group on the impact of climate on fishing and fishing on climate. He said his company is willing to work with scientists to better understand the impact of warming oceans on algae habitat.
And the lobster?
Warmer temperatures have so far not affected lobster landings in the Maritimes.
John Risley, founder of Clearwater Seafoods, predicted that would change. The co-founders of Risley and Clearwater sold the large, vertically integrated company in 2021.
“If I were to look in my crystal ball, I would say that the future of the lobster industry in Atlantic Canada probably lies more in Newfoundland. Why? move with water temperature,” he told the conference.
Risley accused the Department of Fisheries and Oceans of not doing enough to study the impact of climate on lobster, which he called “the largest economic component of Atlantic Canada’s fishery.”
He said the amount DFO spends on lobster research pales in comparison to the money it invests in other areas.
DFO has announced it will spend $3.36 million this year on lobster science in its Maritimes region, which includes the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, southern New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy.
The money pays salaries, including four scientists with PhDs, and funds projects and other investigations. DFO did not provide a comparison of science expenditures in other areas.
Last year, the landed value of lobster in the Maritimes region was $898 million.
A 2019 study predicted minimal impact on lobster
In 2019, DFO attempted to predict the impact of warming waters on the lobster fishery in the Maritimes Region.
He concluded that in most areas, offshore lobster habitat – defined as beyond 19 kilometers from land – is expected to remain adequate or improve over the next several decades.
The Bay of Fundy was more sensitive because it is warming at a slightly faster rate than the Scotian Shelf.
The report says that the Scotian Shelf lobster fishery is somewhat isolated by location – it’s in the middle of where the lobsters are on the North Atlantic Coast – and that temperatures from water are cold enough to withstand expected temperature increases.
Northward migration linked to global warming
The department has explicitly linked fish migration north to warming temperatures.
For the first time, in 2020, it added several warm-water fish species to the annual summer research vessel survey off the coast of eastern Canada. This was done at the request of the commercial fishing industry, which accidentally catches them but cannot land them because they are not included in any commercial fishing license conditions in Canada.
Some come on hot water in the summer and disappear again when the waters cool.
But those that stay year-round have found conditions suitable for a full lifespan and are breeding, including black-bellied rockfish, a spinyfin relative of rockfish. Its spawning-age population was estimated at 4,000 tonnes, the highest level ever recorded.
The conference also heard that fuel consumption is the industry’s biggest source of greenhouse gases, but emissions are small, relatively speaking.
“Most seafood systems around the world result in much lower greenhouse gas emissions than their land-based counterparts for livestock, eggs and poultry,” said Peter Tyedmers, professor at the School for Resource and Environmental Studies from Dalhousie University.
Aquaculture overtakes wild fisheries as the source of most seafood in the world.
Stefanie Colombo, Canada Research Chair in Aquaculture Nutrition, said salmon farms are more successful in reducing their environmental footprint by reducing the amount of fish used as feed.