DFO/FSRS Inshore Ecosystem Research On The Scotian Shelf

Map of Nova Scotia, Canada, showing the 50 fathom line (100m) and the 12 mile offshore line.

Both nationally and regionally, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is undertaking an ecosystem approach to oceans management, including the Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management (ESSIM) initiative, and the development of methods for the identification of Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs). Recently the geographic scope of Integrated Management planning under the Oceans Action Plan has been extended to include inshore waters of the Scotian Shelf.

Inshore areas are critical nursery and feeding areas for many marine species but we have insufficient scientific data to meaningfully contribute to either Integrated Management of the inshore or definitions of EBSAs. The DFO/FSRS Inshore Ecosystem Research On The Scotian Shelf project, funded under Phase 1 of the Oceans Action Plan, aims to fill this data gap to the extent possible. We propose to bring together existing data and knowledge from a range of sources, including a local ecological knowledge survey of commercial fishermen, and to collect new data, on the use of the inshore by marine and diadromous fish, marine mammals, invertebrates, and marine plants and their habitat associations. These data are essential for the successful implementation of Integrated Management.

The Inshore Ecosystem Research Project is a joint project between the Fishermen and Scientists Research Society (FSRS) and DFO, which we hope will grow to include other researchers and members of the fishing industry. This project relies heavily upon the participation of inshore fishermen for both the local ecological knowledge survey and the collection of new data. FSRS fishermen members have been involved in the design of the project and will be critical to the successful completion of the project. Through the FSRS field personnel, the community presence of the FSRS will be maintained.

The geographical scope of the proposed project is the inshore area of the Scotian Shelf (Figure 1), from Cape North to Cape Sable Island. For the purposes of this project, the inshore is defined as the current inshore limit of the DFO Research Vessel Trawl Survey, less than 50 fathoms depth or less than 12 miles offshore. We note however that these limits neither reflect the functional role of this ocean area in the structuring and population dynamics of diadromous or marine species, nor the distribution of species, habitats and ecological processes. Therefore, we consider these limits as a guide only, and during the course of the project we will explore the more ecologically and biologically relevant boundaries.

This project will begin with baseline research on the distribution and relative abundance of marine and diadromous fish, marine mammals, invertebrates and marine plants by surveying existing scientific literature and data; conducting a local ecological knowledge survey; and by conducting at-sea catch analysis during commercial fishing activities. The second year of the project will also involve fisheries-independent research to describe the distribution of species along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia out to 50 fathoms. This will provide a degree of ground-truthing for the baseline information and provide more detailed data to identify geographic gradients, habitat and species associations, and candidate EBSAs. By April 2007, we will have completed a draft Ecosystem Overview and Assessment Report (EOAR) for the Inshore of the Scotian Shelf, which will contribute to the development of a strategic research plan in support of Phase 2 of the Oceans Action Plan.

Overall Deliverables

  • Draft EOAR for the inshore area of the Scotian Shelf (Figure 1).
  • Provisional descriptions of potential EBSAs in the inshore area.
  • Provision of data, identification of data gaps and plan of research, including methodology, for future EBSA research in the inshore area.

Contact Information

Alida Bundy
Research Scientist, Population Ecology Division
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Bedford Institute of Oceanography,
PO Box 1006, Dartmouth, NS B2Y 4A2
Phone: 902-426-8353
E-mail: bundya@mar.dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Patty King
General Manager
Fishermen and Scientists Research Society
PO Box 25125
Halifax, NS B3T 1N3
Phone: 902-876-1160
E-mail: info@fsrs.ns.ca