A recovery centre in Queens County for the endangered Atlantic whitefish is one of the latest casualties of federal government cuts.
The Mersey Biodiversity Centre in Milton — home to a hatchery where the endangered fish are bred to try and rebuild the population — will be phased out by 2014.
Brooke Nodding, the executive director of the Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation, said she was told last week by the regional director for science for Fisheries and Oceans Canada that the Mersey Biodiversity Centre would be closed by April 1, 2014. The Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation is a non-government organization that's a member of the Atlantic whitefish recovery team.
"We were a bit shocked, we weren't prepared for the announcement," Nodding told CBC News on Tuesday.
"There are no plans to move the Atlantic whitefish efforts anywhere else — that they were basically closing down the program."
Scientists say the world's only surviving population of Atlantic whitefish is confined to three lakes outside Bridgewater.
Between 500 and 2,000 surviving adult Atlantic whitefish are stranded behind a dam first built in the 1890s. The exact population of the fish — which have not been able to reach the ocean in more than 100 years — is not known.
Six years ago, the federal government committed to a recovery plan for the endangered fish and part of that plan involved the Mersey Biodiversity Centre.
In an email to CBC News, a Fisheries and Oceans Canada spokesperson said the department is now focusing its recovery efforts on building fish passages and said it had introduced captive Atlantic whitefish to a lake in Dartmouth.
The fate of the research centre has no immediate impact on the recovery efforts of the Atlantic whitefish, Nodding said, but she remains concerned about the federal government's decision.
"DFO and the federal government have legal obligations within the strategy, so it was a bit surprising," she said.