Parks Canada, fishermen work to protect ocean ecosystem
Groups planting eelgrass, vital to the survival of many species on Nova Scotia's south shore
Parks Canada officials and fishermen on the South Shore are working together on a conservation project in the Kejimkujik Seaside adjunct.
The two groups are working on transplanting eelgrass beds that have been nearly wiped-out by the invasive European green crab.
According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the green crab is ranked among the 100 worst alien invasive species worldwide.
It is an aggressive competitor and a prodigious reproducer that is tolerant of a wide variety of marine environments, with the ability to alter entire ecosystems at great economic cost.
On the south shore, fishermen have been trapping thousands of the crabs, giving the eelgrass a chance to recover.
The plants provide nursery habitats for young fish, as well as invertebrates such as crab, sea stars, and crustaceans. The plants are also an important indicator of the overall health of the underwater ecosystem.
According to the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s website, eelgrass helps to improve water quality by trapping sediment. Some estimates say that up to 80 per cent of commercially important ocean species rely on eelgrass during some part of their lifecycles.
Parks Canada said the eelgrass is responding well to transplants, but the area that the plants cover is still only a fraction of the size it was 25 years ago.
Eelgrass has long, ribbon-like fronds that can grow up to two metres in length. The grass’s extensive root system make it ideal for fastening to the seafloor of shallow bays, preventing erosion.