Shellfish catch off Nova Scotia plummets

The quantity of shellfish caught off Nova Scotia dropped by more than half between 2003 and 2006 as water quality deteriorated, a new report says.

Development adds to coastline problems

The quantity of shellfish caught off Nova Scotia dropped by more than  half between 2003 and 2006 as water quality deteriorated, a new report says.

The State of Nova Scotia's Coast report, released Wednesday, said the province will suffer physically, ecologically and economically without the co-ordinated participation of those with a stake in the future of the coastline.

In 2003, the shellfish catch stood at 317,556 tonnes. It dropped to 127,969 tonnes in 2006.

The report also says storms, which have always affected Nova Scotia's coast, will become worse and more economically devastating as sea levels rise and the effects of global warming are felt.

The document from the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture was drafted by consulting engineers at CBCL Ltd. with input from 15 governmental departments and agencies known as the Provincial Ocean Network.

It gives an overview of the condition of Nova Scotia's coastal areas and outlines a framework that it says will "focus efforts to tackle complex coastal issues."

It defines six priority areas:

  • Coastal development.
  • Working waterfronts.
  • Public coastal access.
  • Sea level rise and storm events.
  • Coastal water quality.
  • Sensitive coastal ecosystems and habitats.

In addition to providing a framework, it also identifies variables that must be accounted for, such as the complexity of the natural environment and multiple, sometimes conflicting jurisdictions that govern Nova Scotia's waters.

Large coastal population

Sterling Belliveau, the province's minister of fisheries and aquaculture and environment, said the project is the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada.

He said the report "marks the beginning of the government's progress to develop a sustainable development strategy."

Nova Scotia has about 13,300 kilometres of coastline and 70 per cent of the population lives in coastal communities.

The report said almost half of the 452,581 hectares of land protected by federal or provincial law in the province is "wholly or partially" within two kilometres of the coast.

Eighty per cent of a two-kilometre-wide coastal land strip around the province has little or no development on it, while 11 per cent "has intensely developed urban and industrial areas."

"The coast is where we live and we work and play. It's vital to who we are," said Belliveau.

Rising sea levels

The report said restrictions placed on shellfish harvesting areas is an indicator of poor water quality and found that between 1985 and 2000, the number of closures in harvesting areas doubled.

"About 950 square kilometres are closed to shellfish harvesting right now due to bacterial contamination and other reasons," said Justin Huston of the Department of Fisheries.

The report said global warming will result in a sea-level rise of 70 to 140 centimetres over the next century, with the Atlantic-facing shoreline being particularly sensitive to the resulting changes.

Jennifer Graham, coastal co-ordinator at the Ecology Action Centre, attended the announcement and said it's exciting to see a public commitment from the government to protect the coast.

She said she wants more information on the project's implementation.

"I was a little concerned that, while the government promises to get back to us in the new year, that there's not a firm timeline and date to have some public consultations and to develop and implement this coastal strategy," she said.

The government said it will use the report and public feedback to develop a strategy for release in 2011 to address coastal issues.

Corrections

  • The Nova Scotia government has corrected it numbers, saying the actual catch of shellfish in 2003 amounted to 155,338 tonnes.
    Dec 10, 2009 5:10 PM AT