Grant to VIU’s Deep Bay station is a ‘big step forward’ for ocean acidity research

Ocean acidification is the result of declining pH levels in the water reducing the availability of shell-forming compounds

A $667,000 government grant will help VIU Deep Bay Marine Field Station “design a hatchery of the future” mitigating ocean acidification, according to station manager Brian Kingzett.

It’s an ambitious goal made possible by a grant announced last week in Nanaimo by the Honourable Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification.

Kingzett said it’s a big step forward, calling ocean acidification “a complex issue” affecting the waters of Baynes Sound and coastlines around the world.

Ocean acidification is the result of declining pH levels in the water reducing the availability of shell-forming compounds which can lead to high hatchery mortality rates in shellfish.

The funding will help advance shellfish hatchery design by integrating the latest technological developments into an operating hatchery at the station.

The money will go towards lab upgrades, providing the foundation to launch an innovative program to better monitor and mitigate factors impeding shellfish seed production, including ocean acidification.

British Columbia’s aquaculture industry creates close to 6,000 jobs in coastal communities in the province, at least 30 of which are in Deep Bay alone.

“The shellfish industry is the first industry to feel the effects of ocean acidification,” said Kingzett. “Shellfish hatcheries have been affected in that they’ve been unable to produce the amount of shellfish seed because the water has actually become, in many cases, corrosive to the shells of larvae as we have more carbon dioxide in the water.”

Kingzett said in the last decade B.C. has suffered from a shortage of shellfish seed.

“The existing hatcheries haven’t been able to make up the supply deficit,” he explained, adding hatcheries are “expensive to build and complex to run.”

He said the idea of the project is to demonstrate new emerging technologies in what he called “a next generation hatchery” that will borrow progressive ideas from hatcheries internationally.

The station has been seeking funding to purchase equipment for this project for the last three years.

“This grant really gets it rolling,” said Kingzett. “And we’re going to use the new equipment to attract researchers, part of it is attracting intellectual capacity — equipment means nothing unless you have the scientists to go with it.”

Over the next few months the station will be looking into equipment and preliminary design ideas for the new hatchery.

“We’re pretty excited,” said Kingzett. “Because of the openness of our labs, we’ll be open to the industry and the public to see our research.”

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