R&D Priority Setting Session 2021

(Individual presentations & breakout sessions can be found in the Media & Event Archive.)

Due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, our R&D Priority Setting changed course from an in-person session to a virtual Zoom meeting. This resulted in a positive turnout of representatives from all corners of the aquaculture industry: farmers, associations, government, academia, independent researchers and consultants. Not only were participants from Nova Scotia, but we had attendees from across Canada and as far as Ireland. Needless to say, we had a very successful meeting as we discussed the main challenges facing each sector (finfish, shellfish, seaplants) and ideas regarding how to develop, re-evaluate and/or expand the current initiatives being pursued in each sector.

We began our session with a presentation on the AANS’ current R&D initiatives, followed by a presentation of the AANS’ Shellfish Infrastructure and Development Program by Brad Cronshaw. We were pleased to welcome several funding agencies to the meeting to share their programs with the group. Thank you to Colleen Frizzell of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board, Melinda Watts (NSDFA) and Leah Lewis-McCrea (CMAR), Don Douglas of NRC-IRAP, Jessi Gillis of Invest Nova Scotia, Ashley Mataya of Labour and Advanced Education, and Natalie Bell of the Atlantic Fisheries Fund.

Following the presentations and a short break, attendees were separated into pre-determined sector-specific breakout rooms (finfish, shellfish, seaplants) through Zoom based on their sector of interest indicated upon registration. The groups were asked to identify challenges and opportunities within their assigned sector group.

It is interesting to note that the finfish and shellfish groups both identified public trust as their top priority for the second year in a row. Although not purely R&D, science communication to a general audience is an important aspect in building public trust and something the AANS plans to improve on in 2021.

Finfish Sector Priorities
The group identified two main priorities for industry improvement, which were in line with priorities previously identified in 2020, including public trust and broodstock strategy development.

  1. Public Trust: the topic of marine aquaculture has been a hot topic of discussion and even more so since Minister Jordan’s decision to cancel salmon farm licenses in the Discovery Islands, BC.Not only is it essential for the AANS to support salmon farming, but it is also important for the public to know that the aquaculture industry in Nova Scotia cannot be compared to British Columbia for a number of reasons. The AANS is formulating campaigns to clear the air and provide factual information that can be easily digested by the general public. Some examples may be to:
    1. Emphasize proper media channels to get the right message to the broader audience.
    2. Focus on personal stories to connect the farmers with the audience, rather than only sharing scientific facts.
  2. Broodstock and Egg Source Acquisition:
    1. Nova Scotia needs to find a Rainbow Trout egg source outside of Troutlodge.

Shellfish Sector Priorities
The shellfish group identified challenges that were consistent with those outlined in previous years, including public trust, securing a seed source, initiating an American oyster breeding program in Nova Scotia and the need for a simple process when updating licenses for a species that naturally grows on site.

  1. Public Trust: opposition to shellfish aquaculture is gaining momentum in some coastal communities in Nova Scotia through well-organized groups via social media and word of mouth.These opposition groups are going unchallenged and work needs to be done to prevent the spread of misinformation. Below are options that could build public trust:
    1. Branding: using terms such as “nature-based aquaculture”, “restorative aquaculture”, “oyster gardens”, “billion oyster project”, “nutrient credits”.
    2. Engage the Community: open farm tours, resources/talks in schools, connect with municipalities.
    3. Science-based Resources: a database for peer-reviewed studies, facts about aquaculture licenses.
    4. Social Media: create a video series highlighting science-based facts.
  2. Secure Seed Source: there is concern that as the NS shellfish industry grows, there will not be sufficient seed to support it. There are also complications due to disease transfer between regions so it may be best to look into a Cape Breton hatchery and a mainland hatchery.
  3.  American Oyster Breeding Program: there is a breeding program being developed in New Brunswick, PEI, and along the Eastern seaboard. The need is there to develop a faster growing and better-quality oyster.
  4. NSDFA Application Process: currently farmers must go through the full administration process to add naturally growing species (ie. seaweed, quahogs) to their licenses. There were also comments on the length of time to get an amendment/new site approved. There is a need to
    streamline some of these application processes.

Seaplant Sector Priorities

The group identified similar constraints to the sector in 2021 as were outlined in 2020. The cultivated seaplant industry is just developing in Nova Scotia, so there is a lot of work to be done to sustain a fully Nova Scotian seaplant sector.

  1. Nova Scotian Seeded Lines: as interest in seaweed cultivation grows, it is essential for seeded lines to be developed in Nova Scotia. Dalhousie may be interested in creating a small-scale sugar kelp hatchery. Challenges with developing a hatchery include:
    1. Broodstock must be grown separately depending on region due to legislative restrictions.
    2. Hatchery will only be active for 2-3 months of the year.
  2. Improving Efficiencies while Farming: processing and harvesting seaweed lines is very labour-intensive.
  3. Marketing and Processing: there is a need to determine the demand of a Nova Scotia grown product and the level of processing needed.
  4.  Public Trust: As with other sectors, it is essential to increase awareness of the sustainability of seaweed, the products it produces and how it can be used. Ways to get the community involved include:
    1. Public Workshop: to assist those with an interest in cultivated seaplants by connecting them with those who are already producing or have knowledge of the process.
    2. Working Group: another means to bring together those interested and those with
      expertise to put together an educational forum for discussion.
    3. Social Media: focusing on the “story” instead of the product.

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