As the two-year pilot initiative wraps up at the Coast of Bays — Regional Aquaculture Centre, the Fisheries and Marine Institute (MI) will continue to move forward in engaging with aquaculture stakeholders in the region.
MI’s engagement will be through its Community Based Education Delivery (CBED) unit, Centre for Aquaculture and Seafood Development (CASD) and Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources (CSAR).
The pilot project, which was funded by the provincial and federal governments, along with MI’s contribution of a faculty member salary, built upon MI’s strong collaboration with the local aquaculture industry to determine the training and applied research and development needs of industry through focus groups and needs assessments.
From the outset, the planning for and establishment of the Coast of Bays — Regional Aquaculture Centre (COB-RAC) was to be based on three foundational pillars: training, research and development, and engagement. The intention was for the COB-RAC to support the burgeoning aquaculture industry in its training and research needs. It quickly became clear that community engagement would be as important as the other two pillars.
The most significant training activities facilitated by the COB-RAC during the pilot related to the needs of both the aquaculture and fishing industries.
MI teamed up with the College of the North Atlantic (CNA) to deliver essentials skills training (provided by CNA) and the institute’s technical training for the Technical Certificate — Aquaculture (TCA) program. This effort was to assist the salmon farming industry in the Coast of Bays area in identifying new workers and improve the long-term employability of program participants.
A Fishing Masters Level IV program was also organized and delivered in Pool’s Cove during winter 2019. Participants in this program represented both the aquaculture and fisheries sectors.
Over the two years of the COB-RAC pilot, MI responded to industry requests to offer marine safety training, including first aid, marine emergency duties, small vessel operation and radio operation.
In total, 13 courses were provided in the Coast of Bays region and in Green Bay to salmon and mussel aquaculture companies, environmental companies, tourism operators and fishers. Approximately 100 students took part in these courses.
The lion’s share of research and development initiatives supported during the COB-RAC pilot focused on dealing with wastes from the quickly expanding aquaculture industry.
Aquaculture produces both organic waste material, such as fish offal and inorganic waste, such as plastics. Since the term “waste” suggests they do not have value — which is far from the case — these materials are more accurately called by-products.
MI will continue to work with the aquaculture industry to identify the best way to realize this value. In addition to aquaculture by-product work, the centre worked with fishers on innovative gears, such as fluorescent twine for the crab fishery and novel traps for the lobster fishery.
The final pillar of the COB-RAC was community engagement. Spreading the word about aquaculture and the opportunity it represents in the Coast of Bays and other rural parts of Newfoundland and Labrador is exciting.
Aquaculture developments in Southern Newfoundland (Coast of Bays, including Fortune Bay and Placentia Bay) represent some of the most exciting economic developments taking place anywhere in the province.
Local community members, educators and aquaculture industry participants highlighted the need to engage with the public and with youth, in particular, to deliver the message about the opportunity that aquaculture holds for the future economic development of the Coast of Bays region.
The centre facilitated this effort through school visits and engagement with municipalities and organizations.
In total, COB-RAC led or was involved in 33 school visits including talks, demonstrations and fish dissections. The wide-ranging topics and activities included aquaculture (practice, technology, sustainability, careers), aquaponics, fisheries sustainability, plankton sampling, water quality testing, fish biology, marine debris, living marine organisms, beach survey and remotely operated vehicles.
Going forward, the Fisheries and Marine Institute will continue to be active in the region to support aquaculture stakeholders through research and development contracts and training.
By Keith Rideout, Marine Institute
Keith Rideout is a faculty member at the Fisheries and Marine Institute and the former coordinating instructor/technical liaison for the Coast of Bays — Regional Aquaculture Centre.