Oyster farmer Rob Tryon and a farmhand prepare a harvest for market in 2014. Vancouver Island University research is looking at how heatwaves caused by climate change impacts aquaculture production. (Quinn Bender file photo)

Oyster farmer Rob Tryon and a farmhand prepare a harvest for market in 2014. Vancouver Island University research is looking at how heatwaves caused by climate change impacts aquaculture production. (Quinn Bender file photo)

B.C. scientists look at climate change impacts on aquaculture production

Increased heatwaves may have dire consequences for food security

As climate change causes more extreme temperature events, heat waves have the potential to hit marine environments especially hard. The impacts could be especially dire for humans, as we increasingly turn to aquaculture as the best hope to feed a global population speeding toward 10-billion people.

Researchers at Vancouver Island University are leading an investigation to study the effects of heatwaves on farmed finfish and shellfish to learn how farmers can improve crop security in an uncertain future.

“The world is changing, and we must make informed decisions to change with it successfully,” Dr. Dan Baker, a VIU Fisheries and Aquaculture Professor said. “British Columbia has a crucial part to play in providing food to Canada and the rest of the world in this future, and we believe we can help by addressing challenges in aquaculture industries hit hard by problems created by climate change and other anthropogenic activities.”

Baker, along with two other lead researchers, VIU professors Dr. Spencer Russel and Dr. Timothy Green, are designing research projects with $549,000 in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and BC Knowledge Development Fund.

READ MORE: Canada’s first Aquaculture Act enters new phase of consultation

Green is investigating how marine heat waves can cause death in farmed oysters. Baker will examine how heat waves may alter how wild and farmed salmon and sturgeon respond and adapt to higher summer temperatures. Russell is investigating the impact on gill health of farmed salmonids.

The professors said many previous studies have focused on higher average seawater temperatures, but this general approach doesn’t improve understanding on impacts to food security. By looking at aquaculture specifically, the professors hope to provide information on how different species can adapt to climate change.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization places a high value on aquaculture for the global food supply. The agency found that of the 156-million tonnes of fish products the world ate in 2018, 52 per cent already comes from aquaculture.

In B.C., just 17,500 metric tonnes of wild salmon was harvested for human consumption, compared to 87,000 metric tonnes of farmed salmon.

READ MORE: Norovirus outbreaks linked to oysters sign of water pollution: shellfish group

Provincial shellfish farming is also on the rise, but is among the first to experience impacts of climate change. In recent years harmful algae blooms and marine biotoxin incidents have spiked in frequency, while ocean acidification, caused by an increase of carbon dioxide in the environment, devastated the industry in the Pacific Northwest as young shellfish were unable to form shells.

Going forward, heatwaves lasting between a few days to a few months are expected to increase in frequency.

“By identifying how marine heatwaves alter finfish and shellfish behaviour, physiology and immune responses, we will improve our knowledge on how these warm water events increase the susceptibility of aquatic animals to disease and make significant advances in the management of finfish and shellfish health and welfare,” Russell said.



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

Fish Farms

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

From now to November, WildsafeBC will be educating the public through its various programs in the community of Bella Coola. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bears are back, and so is WildSafeBC

Rae will be working hard to reach out to community members in new and innovative ways

Bella Coola’s new WildSafeBC co-ordinator, Rae Kokeš, has spent the last 10 years in Africa working in lion, human, conflict, and is a wildlife biologist by trade. (Photo submitted)
From the savannas of Africa to the Bella Coola Valley

New Wildsafe BC coordinator ready to tackle wildlife conflict

Bella Coola Valley Ridge Riders Horse Club board member Annika Granander watches, and participates in the gymkhana Sunday (Photo submitted)
Sunshine and smiles all around Bella Coola Ridge Riders Horse Club gymkhana

The event was the first of the year, with COVID-19 safety precautions in place

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Stolen truck found broken down on Highway 97C, Williams Lake suspect arrested near Ashcroft

A security guard first noticed the truck, and thought it looked suspicious

A build up of lint in a clothes dryer is believed to have caused a house fire in Alexis Creek Sunday evening, April 4, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Clothing dryer suspected cause of Alexis Creek home fire, owner wants to warn others

Neil Miller is thankful he still has his horses, community support and his life

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Most Read