Researchers net more than $2 million in funding
By Jeff Green
Memorial University is leading the way, securing more federal funding than any other university in Canada to support industry-driven research and development in fisheries and aquaculture.
In the latest round of funding announced by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Memorial received $2.25 million in financial support for six innovative projects – the lion’s share across the country.
The funding was announced May 19.
The federal government said the funding will keep the Canadian fisheries and aquaculture industries competitive and sustainable.
Principal investigators from Memorial receiving support include: Drs. Ian Fleming, Don Diebel and David Schneider of the Ocean Sciences Centre (OSC); Dr. Paul Winger from the Marine Institute (MI); Dr. Orland Hoeber of the Department of Computer Science, and Professor Dag Friis from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.
Each will receive funding over the span of three years in support of strategic research projects in fisheries and aquaculture.
Dr. Fleming and co-investigator Dr. Craig Purchase, Department of Biology, have received more than $440,000 for a project titled Assessing and Mitigating Risk from a Diversifying Aquaculture Industry: The Potential for Interaction Between Escapee and Wild Atlantic Cod.
Their work will use the principles of evolutionary and behavioural ecology to explore the nature of escape and the interactions between farmed and wild cod. They hope their investigation can provide a means of assessing the risk and identifying mitigation measures.
Dr. Fleming said the NSERC funding is “critical,” allowing Memorial to collaborate with Fisheries and Oceans Canada as well as colleagues in Europe – including a consortium of 11 European universities and research institutes – on a “truly international issue.
“The funds are essential to Craig and I to undertake research into assessing the potential ecological impacts of the aquaculture escapes on local environments,” he said. “With the recent expansion of aquaculture into fully marine species, such as cod, there are new challenges which are best addressed early in the industry’s development.”
He noted that the results of their project aim to lessen potential ecological effects, as well as industry costs, of escaped cod from aquaculture farms. They also hope the project will improve this country’s ability to respond to the science and policy challenges presented by the growth of its aquaculture industry.
Meanwhile, researchers at the Marine Institute are also looking at ways to improve Canada’s east coast fishery.
They’ve just received funding to help develop solutions for the industry.
Dr. Paul Winger, director of the MI’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources, is receiving more than $325,000 in NSERC support to develop an efficient and sustainable yellowtail capture fishery, including the harvesting, processing, and knowledge management associated with the yellowtail flounder. The MI is collaborating with St. John’s-based Ocean Choice International for the project.
“The yellowtail flounder fishery is an important contributor to the economy of rural Newfoundland,” said Dr. Winger. “Achieving long-term economic and ecological sustainability for this fishery is very important, particularly to the people of the Burin Pennisula. This NSERC strategic funding was specifically established to address operational efficiencies within Canada’s wild capture fishery. It marks a new source of funding for me, the Marine Institute, and OCI. The research team is very pleased.”
Dr. Ray Gosine, vice-president (research) pro tempore at Memorial, said this latest injection of federal funding into industry-driven research at Memorial bodes well for university.
“Much of Memorial’s research strengths are rooted in our maritime location,” he noted. “Our researchers play a vital role in conducting important studies that help advance our province’s industries including our fisheries and aquaculture industries. These projects will also build on our partnerships with academic and research institutions and industry and help educate highly qualified graduates. Memorial is pleased to be awarded this NSERC funding and we are delighted that our researchers are once again leading the country.”
In total, Ottawa announced $8.8 million in funding as part of a new five-year initiative, led by NSERC to support industry-driven research and development in fisheries and aquaculture. Across the country, 23 projects have received support.