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Nova Scotia fish hatchery adapts to a changing climate

FLY THE NORTH – Climate change – which brings with it prolonged drought, warmer water and lower oxygen levels – is prompting a large fish hatchery in Nova Scotia to adapt.

Alan McNeill, director of inland fisheries for the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, said significant changes were made after a three-month period of low rainfall in 2020.

The impact was seen at the hatchery at Frasers Mills, located in Antigonish County. Frasers Mills is one of three hatcheries operated by the province and is home to 650,000 cold-water and trout stocked annually.

Last year’s drought, combined with warmer water, which means lower oxygen levels, has resulted in a situation where fish can become stressed, making them more susceptible to disease, parasites and death.

“We’re definitely seeing longer droughts,” McNeill told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday.

Although fish are quite resilient, he says, they can fight off viral and bacterial diseases, as well as parasites, when stressed.

The hatchery has a record from 1926 that highlights evolving climate trends.

Although efforts have been made to try to mitigate this, specifically supplementing with supplemental oxygen, more permanent solutions, such as water recycling, are being considered.

“Most commercial hatcheries are recirculating systems where they can control the water, control the water quality, the temperature and filter the water, so ultimately that is the solution we have,” says McNeill. I trust Frasers Mills hatchery.

“We’ve got supplemental oxygen now, but we can’t really sustain the droughts any longer.”

He said last week they received a commissioned study from an aquaculture consulting firm that provided several options for addressing the issue, with further discussions coming up to figure out how to not only execute the plans but also finance them.

“In the long term, we definitely see recirculation, recovery, filtration as a solution, and we can certainly control factors like disease and water quality,” McNeill said.

The federal government in its final budget set aside $647.1 million over five years to address the decline in Pacific salmon populations, in part due to climate.

Meanwhile, a report released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday found that output and value in Canada’s aquaculture industry fell in 2020 during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sales of aquaculture products and services fell 16.8% year-on-year to $1.1 billion, driven primarily by national prices for finfish products and lower production levels for finfish. with both finfish and shellfish.

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