Coastal community component of ocean research project gets underway in Port Mouton

Nick Moase nmoase@theadvance.ca
Published on October 25, 2014

Dr. Tony Charles speaks about the OceanCanada project and its goals. On Oct. 28 researchers from the Canada wide project came to Port Mouton to talk about the project and hear from the community on what they would like to see come out of it. 

©Nick Moase - TC Media

PORT MOUTON- A long term project looking at the future of combining a healthy economy and a healthy environment around the oceans took its first steps in Port Mouton. 

OceanCanada's focus is on how to promote healthy ocean economies without further degrading the marine environment. To do this, they need to understand what is going on in the oceans right now, and build scenarios of what might happen based on changes made. It goes beyond just looking at the oceans, however. It involves the entire ecosystem around the ocean, including the communities that live and work with the ocean.

Oct. 23 was primarily an introduction of the researchers to the community and what they are looking for from the community. From here they plan on meeting again, to hash out what angles to look at going forward. About 35 people came out to the meeting that evening, to ask questions about the researchers' work and start the dialogue on what the community would like to see in the future.

The project is large in scope. In goes across Canada, involving 15 formal partners, 38 researchers, 35 students and runs until 2020. The formal partners are mostly universities, government and the fishing industry, but the sole community involved with the project is Port Mouton.

In Port Mouton Dr. Tony Charles said to do this the researchers will work with fishers, tourism operators and others in the community, to look at how the bay has changed over time, and developing scenarios for its future. Charles is the lead researcher in the Atlantic area, and is based out of St. Mary's University.

"We hope that approach can be a prototype approach that can be used by coastal communities across the country," he said in an email interview with The Advance.

The partnership with Port Mouton blossomed out of another project that St. Mary's University was involved in, that brought international visitors on a field trip along the South Shore. What struck the researches was how strong the community was in both studying and protecting the coastal environment. When the OceanCanada project came along, the community was a good fit to work together on this research.

At the end of the project, the researchers hope to present a vision for healthy and sustainable oceans in Canada. To do that they have to work backwards, says Derek Armitage, Associate Professor in the Department of Environment and Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo. The question they start with is what will a health ocean look like in 2050, and then work back from there to make it a reality. The research can then be used to influence policy makers to make better decisions for the future of the oceans.

Although funding for the project came from the federal government, the research is being conducted by university-based researchers. As such, they are not subject to the same kind of restrictions federally employed scientists have faced in getting their research to the wider world.

"I think Port Mouton Bay and the Friends have the best shot at showing the rest of Canada they way forward in terms of democracy and sustainability," said Dr. Nancy Doubleday, chair of the Artic Working Group with the project.