Harris Centre Annual Report - Snapshots from around the province

Port au PortWhere: PORT AU PORT

Who: Team of interdisciplinary researchers

What: Harris Centre Brokered Project

For the residents and the fisherman of the Port au Port region the sudden collapse of the local scallop fishery was not just a puzzle to be solved but a serious threat to their livelihoods. And it wasn’t just scallops but sea urchin and rock crab populations that were plummeting as well.

The fishermen believe that environmental pollutants, possibly from oil or industrial developments in the area, may be an important factor in these declines. “We feel that developments have been happening around the Port au Port Bay without due regard for the possible effects on the marine environment,” said Bob Diamond, Port au Port Fishery Committee Member. “Past environmental assessments haven’t taken into consideration the potential high risk and vulnerability of the site to tidal surges, coastal erosion, and other impacts from extreme weather that could be related to climate change.” To make things worse, high rates of coastal erosion moved what were once on-shore abandoned drilling sites offshore, potentially adding to the pollution of the nearby coastal environment.

The committee needed answers so they turned to Memorial as a partner. With help from the Harris Centre’s knowledge broker Amy Tucker, local fisherman met with an interdisciplinary team of researchers eager to explore the scallop collapse.
Bob Diamond explains that the committee was very much aware that this needed to be a collaborative project. “We wanted to put resources together in a collective manner to address the issues with our marine environment, and we feel that working with the university to complete thorough research would help us achieve our goals,” said Mr. Diamond.

Dr. Penny Morrill from the Department of Earth Sciences at the Faculty of Science and her team obtained funding through the Harris Centre’s Applied Research Fund and today they are continuing to work with the communities in the region on solving the mystery of the scallop fishery collapse and helping residents clean up and preserve the environment upon which their livelihoods depend.


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