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Grant will fund North Island College salmon aquaculture research

North Island College was successful in its application for an Entry Level Innovation Enhancement (IE) grant to fund research into the utilization of hard seabed substrates in salmon aquaculture.

This grant was awarded under the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) College and Community Innovation Program, NIC announced Tuesday.

IE grants are designed to foster partnerships between colleges and the private sector that will lead to business innovation at the local, regional and national levels. Specifically, this grant will build North Island College’s applied research and technology transfer capacity to support and collaborate with the Vancouver Island salmon aquaculture industry.

The BC Salmon Farming Association (BCSFA) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) have identified a need to strengthen capacity in monitoring of hard bed substrates where some fish farms are, or may, in the future, be located.

This project addresses two fundamental research issues of concern to fish farmers and regulators:

1) What are the significant ecological changes likely to occur at hard bottom sites associated with salmon farm operations?

2) What are the physical, biological and/or chemical habitat indicators and their threshold(s) at which significant negative macro-benthic changes occur?

In consultation with the industry and research partners, a two-year research program intended to address these questions was proposed. This investigation will provide a solid foundation for future industry growth in hard bottom areas. It will also help to inform a broader, more thoughtful dialogue about the impacts of the industry in the region.

North Island College will receive $99,464 in the first year of the project and $100,000 in the second, to support direct research costs and the enhancement of research infrastructure at the college.  Aisling Brady, PhD, a NIC Biology instructor at both the Comox Valley and Campbell River campuses, will be the primary researcher.

NIC’s vice-president, education, Jan Kubli Carrie, notes establishing applied research capacity is an important component of the college’s Strategic Plan, specifically as it relates to the development and growth of our communities.

“Northern Vancouver Island has become the principal salmon farming region in the province. Strengthening the sustainability and vitality of this industry offers direct and tangible benefits for communities across the region. But critical to any further development of the industry is a clearer understanding of the environmental impacts of farm sites and that is the objective of this project,” she states.

“North Island College is extremely excited to have received this grant. Only projects and proposals of the highest calibre receive funding,” adds NIC’s manager of the Natural Resources and Applied Research Centre, Derek Marcoux.

“As a follow-up to this project, North Island College recently submitted a second application to NSERC for the establishment of a research chair, which, if successful, would further the college’s work with regard to environmental seabed monitoring of salmon aquaculture operations.”

For further information on applied research at North Island College, please visit www.nic.bc.ca/research or contact Derek Marcoux at 250-923-9719.

— North Island College

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