Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

September 22, 2005 18:22 ET

Governments Of Canada And PEI Announce Funding For Invasive Tunicates

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Sept. 22, 2005) - Shawn Murphy, Parliamentary Secretary to Geoff Regan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, on behalf of the Minister, and Kevin MacAdam, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture of PEI, today announced joint funding for over $1 million to respond to the invasive tunicate issue in PEI and the rest of the Atlantic provinces. Invasive tunicates or 'sea squirts' are a type of aquatic invasive species (AIS), which pose a serious threat to our marine ecosystem.

The two levels of government and the industry have been working together to address the growing problem of tunicates. This joint effort uses a combination of funding programs and in-kind assistance to address these Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) which are a threat to the marine ecosystem in the Atlantic Provinces as well as the shell fish harvesting and aquaculture industries.

"The Government of Canada is pleased to be able to respond in a significant way to this new invasion of colonial tunicate," said Mr. Murphy. "This is an excellent example of how the Governments of Canada and P.E.I. are collaborating to support the province's economy. Not only will this study help the mussel farmers in PEI in the short term, but it will also have long-lasting effects for the future of the industry."

"Aquatic invasives species have been a large component of our provincial work plan for the past several years", stated Minister MacAdam. "I am pleased that the federal government is making strides to recognize the potential impacts of aquatic invasives to the aquaculture industry and the marine environment. The investment in research announced today is a positive step forward to managing the issues created by aquatic invasives, and in particular the species of tunicates impacting the PEI mussel industry", concluded the Minister.

Of the total amount, the PEI government and the aquaculture industry in PEI are contributing up to $240,000 (in dollars and in kind) to the control, treatment and monitoring of tunicates. The Government of Canada is also contributing $350,000 toward risk assessment, biological research, monitoring the incidence of tunicates in PEI, and local co-ordination of research efforts.

In a second project, Canada is providing $140,000 and the Province of Prince Edward Island and its mussel industry will be providing $60,000 for a trial research study on the effectiveness of mitigation measures in removing tunicates from mussels.

Third, Canada will provide an additional $400,000 to federal researchers for the monitoring of tunicates and other invasive species in the maritime areas of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and Quebec.

The Honourable Lawrence MacAuley, Member of Parliament for Cardigan, Prince Edward Island, also welcomed the news of the funding. "I am proud that Prince Edward Island will be the testing grounds for this research that will have applications all over the Atlantic and the rest of Canada. It will help us find out about the impacts of the tunicates, how they are introduced to Canadian waters and how they become established"

AIS can pose a serious threat to native ecosystems, by competing with native species for space and food. They reproduce quickly because of a lack of natural controls, and can rapidly cover aquaculture gear, floating docks, the hulls of boats, sea bottom and vegetation. There are no health issues for consumers associated with tunicates or mussels.

However, the costs to produce shellfish can increase dramatically which can make shellfish farming ventures unprofitable. Better methods must be found to manage the tunicates or lessen their impacts.

Since 1998, with the introduction of the clubbed tunicate into the waters of PEI, the issue of controlling invasive species has become a priority with the aquaculture industry of PEI. Mussel aquaculture in PEI employs about 1500 persons and has an annual harvest value of over $23 million.

A Task Force will also be established with senior officials of the governments of Canada and P.E.I. The recommendations of the Task Force will provide key direction to future action on aquaculture invasive species and assist all Atlantic shellfish farmers.

Many stakeholders will benefit from the results of this proposed research, including shellfish growers, fishers and the general public. Using the lessons learned in these specific projects on tunicates, the case study approach can also be applied to other aquatic invasive species that are threatening Canadian ecosystems.



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BACKGROUNDERS
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B-HQ-05-83E(a) Tunicates Project In PEI - Rapid Response For AIS
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B-HQ-05-83E(b) Tunicates Research 'A Case Study Of Tunicates In
Maritime Canada'
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Internet: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca



Fisheries and Oceans Canada
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BACKGROUNDER
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B-HQ-05-83E(a)

TUNICATES PROJECT IN PEI - RAPID RESPONSE FOR AIS


CONTEXT

Invasive tunicates or 'sea squirts' are a type of aquatic invasive species (AIS), which pose a serious threat to the environment, economy or society. When AIS become established in a new habitat, they can exert serious ecologic and economic effects on the ecosystem.

The Clubbed tunicate, Styela clava, was the first invasive tunicate species introduced into PEI waters in 1998. More recently, the colonial tunicates Botrylloides violaceus, (Violet tunicate), and Botryllus schlosseri, (Star tunicate), have been observed.

The violet tunicate and golden star tunicate, unlike the solitary clubbed tunicate, are colonial and thus considered a greater fouling challenge for the mussel industry. They not only reproduce sexually spreading larvae through the water column but also can bud or fragment, producing new colonies which will drift and easily spread the tunicate further out into the bay or estuary.

The violet tunicate has been established in Savage Harbour since at least the summer of 2004, and has been recently reported in other PEI bays, including Cardigan River which is in close proximity to three other important mussel culture systems (Brudenell River, Montague River and St. Mary's Bay). The estimated landed value of mussel crop in these waters is approximately $10, million annually.

RESEARCH PROJECT

At the present time, there are no established rapid response measures to treat these types of infestations. As part of the project, all infested farms in Cardigan River will be treated in order to reduce the biomass of violet tunicates on mussel socks and culture gear.

The effect of this rapid response will be evaluated and compared to the treatment levels in Cardigan Bay by using Savage Harbour as a control bay. A secondary objective will be to monitor the effect of treatment on the infestation levels both on the mussel groupings (socks) and the bottom under and around the infested farms.

The information and expertise generated from this project will assist in the development of rational management strategies for industry and government.

This is a joint venture with DFO ($140,000), the Province of Prince Edward Island ($60,000), and the Prince Edward Island Aquaculture Alliance (in dollars and in kind). The funding is provided under the Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP) (Canada) and the Aquaculture and Fisheries Research Initiative (AFRI) (PEI). The purpose of the project is to identify avoidance strategies and husbandry methods to control fouling and predators. This project will also tie into research that is already being conducted collaboratively through the Invasive Tunicate Research Action Team and the Case Study of Tunicates in Maritime Canada.

SEPTEMBER 2005



Fisheries and Oceans Canada
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BACKGROUNDER
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B-HQ-05-83E(b)

TUNICATES RESEARCH
'A CASE STUDY OF TUNICATES IN MARITIME CANADA'


CONTEXT

Invasive tunicates or 'sea squirts' are a type of aquatic invasive species (AIS), which pose a serious threat to the environment, economy or society. When AIS become established in a new habitat, they can exert serious ecologic and economic effects on the ecosystem.

Also known as the sea squirt, this marine animal (with a heart, stomach, intestines, etc) looks more like a blob of jelly. Its bag-like body is filled with water that will sometimes squirt out, hence the name. It is continuously processing water and extracting its nourishment and excreting waste. It gets its tunicate name from its thick skin which is compared to a tunic.

Since 1970, a new invading tunicate species has been reported every five years in Atlantic and/or Gulf waters. The clubbed tunicate (Styela clava) was initially established in an estuary of eastern Prince Edward Island (PEI) in 1998. This invasive species is causing significant problems for the mussel aquaculture industry by overgrowing mussels, reducing yields and increasing costs of harvesting and processing mussels. The spread and establishment of the clubbed tunicate into other mussel growing areas of PEI, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec could have devastating effects.

In addition to the clubbed tunicate, violet tunicate (Botrylloides violaceus), gold star tunicate (Botryllus schlosseri), vase tunicate (Ciona intestinalis) and Didemnum have been discovered in waters in and around the Maritime provinces. Although the pathways leading to successful invasions are not well understood, tunicates may be introduced into new aquatic ecosystems through ballast water, hull fouling and transport on fishing gear.

CASE STUDY

The goal of the 'Case Study of Tunicates in Maritime Canada,' is to conduct targeted research and provide strategic science advice to help reduce the introduction and spread of tunicates throughout maritime Canada through prevention, early detection and rapid response mechanisms.

In one part of the Case Study, the Government of Canada is contributing $350,000 and the Province of PEI and the mussel industry $240,000 in dollars and kind for risk assessment, biological research, monitoring the incidence of tunicates in PEI, as well as local co-ordination of research efforts.

In a second part of the Case Study, Canada will provide an additional $400,000 to federal researchers for the monitoring of tunicates and other invasive species in the maritime areas of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and Quebec.

This research is part of the framework document on AIS (Proposal for a Canadian Action Plan to Address the Threat of Aquatic Invasive Species) approved in September 2004 by the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers (CCFAM).

Prevention

Once established, it is very difficult and expensive to control or eradicate AIS. Therefore, preventing new introductions and controlling the further spread of established species are the most effective means of addressing the threat of these organisms to aquatic ecosystems.

A number of activities will be undertaken including risk assessments and economic analyses to determine ecologic and economic impacts. As well, pathways of entry and spread will be examined, and the factors affecting the establishment of tunicates in aquatic systems will also be studied.

Early Detection

A high priority monitoring and surveillance program will be designed with stakeholders (e.g., mussel growers, recreational fishers, divers) especially at high risk locations and pathways of introduction.

Rapid Response

Rapid response is essential to minimizing the impact of AIS and controlling their spread. The effectiveness of existing mitigation measures will be studied and new measures will be developed.

SEPTEMBER 2005

http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Contact Information

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Sophie Galarneau
    Media Relations
    (613) 990-7537
    or
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Sujata Raisinghani
    Press Secretary, Office of the Minister
    (613) 992-3474
    or
    For the PEI Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and
    Aquaculture:
    Wayne McKinnon
    (902) 368-4888