From coast to coast: researching the health of oceans

By Michelle Osmond | Jan. 12, 2009

Along the Atlantic coastline, the livelihood of lobster fishermen depends on the sustainability of Canada’s lobster population. George Feltham from Eastport is one of these fishermen. He’s been working with researchers at Memorial for a number of years on marine protected areas and he says it’s essential that fishermen understand how research works in order to achieve their goals of sustaining the lobster population.

“There’s a lot we don’t understand in overall oceans management but the more interaction we have between researchers and fishermen, the better off the fishery will be in the long run,” said Mr. Feltham.

That’s why he believes that a network of researchers from across Canada is an excellent initiative to keeping our oceans healthy.

The NSERC Canadian Healthy Oceans Network (CHONe), which is being led by a Memorial University researcher, is working with fishermen to evaluate how to improve sustainability of marine resources through strategies such as marine protected areas. It’s just one of the projects this cross-Canada network will be working on, ensuring that the policy decisions in Canada will be successful at sustaining Canada’s lobster population for fishermen such as Mr. Feltham, as well as other marine species.

Tony Clement, federal minister of Industry, Suzanne Fortier, president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Shawn Skinner, provincial minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, and Dr. Eddy Campbell, acting president of Memorial, announced the official launch of CHONe on Jan. 12.

“Prime Minister Harper and our government understand that advances in research and development are essential to strengthen the competitiveness of Canada's economy,” said Minister Clement. “As a result, the federal government is focusing research in priority areas, which include environmental science and technologies being addressed by CHONe.”

“The oceans are one of our important research frontiers,” added Dr. Fortier. “This network has taken on an ambitious research agenda that will lead to results such as creating a marine biodiversity database, training more marine scientists and raising public awareness of the importance of Canada’s oceans.”

Headquartered at Memorial University and led by biological oceanographer Dr. Paul Snelgrove, CHONe brings together Canada’s top marine researchers from 15 universities from St. John’s to Victoria. It is a large, interdisciplinary research network, which also includes seven government laboratories as well as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, aimed at ensuring sustainable management of the country’s ocean biodiversity resources.

“Three oceans form a rim around this country,” explained Dr. Snelgrove. “It’s the longest coastline in the world and researchers are scattered across a very large area. CHONe allows us to work together no matter where we are. A diverse set of ideas and approaches, like the ones we’ll develop here, means better research results and more informed policy decisions.”

CHONe involves 65 researchers from 15 universities and multiple federal research labs across Canada, many of whom are based at Memorial University. It is focused on three themes: Marine Biodiversity, Ecosystem Function, and Population Connectivity. Much of this research is focused on improved management of living marine resources including key commercial species such as lobster and cod, and on developing tools to enhance sustainable development of the oceans by marine industries such as oil and gas as well as fishing.

NSERC is providing $5 million in funding over five years to CHONe, with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans adding $1.9 million in in-kind contributions. The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, through the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development is also supporting the network with a contribution of more than $1 million from its Industrial Research and Innovation Fund. An additional $ 700,000 in cash and in-kind contributions has been secured from Memorial University, with other government and private sector partners contributing another $600,000 in in-kind support.


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