Saturday, September 25, 2010

POLLUTION: If Lobsters are dying, what else is being killed?

Another disturbing report of mass mortalities in lobster. As serious as this is, hundreds of other important planktonic and benthic marine species are second cousins to the lobster and form an integral part of the important Quoddy food web. What are the impacts on these creatures and the fish, birds, and mammals that depend on them.

We play this dangerous game at our own peril. My opinion this morning.Art

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Bay of Fundy mystery: What killed the lobsters?

telegraphjournal.com - Published Saturday September 25th, 2010
Environment: Fishermen suspect pesticides are to blame, but aquaculture officials say they're working within regulations

CAMPOBELLO ISLAND - Fisheries and aquaculture industries are both awaiting laboratory results on the latest report of a large-scale Bay of Fundy lobster kill.


Peter McGuire/Telegraph-Journal
Fishermen had a healthy haul at Dipper Harbour last May, as seen in this photo, but the same couldn't be said for some Grand Manan and Deer Island fishermen, who caught dead and dying lobsters.

Environment Canada was informed on Sept. 8, 2010, by area fishers of a possible lobster kill in the Campobello Island area.

"On Sept. 10, Environment Canada conducted an inspection of the area and collected various samples, including fish, from adjacent aquaculture sites.

"The samples are currently being analyzed by Environment Canada's laboratory in Moncton," the federal department said in an emailed response to questions from the Telegraph-Journal.

Results could take several weeks, said Environment Canada spokeswoman Shalon McLachlan in Dartmouth, N.S. Wednesday.

Environment Canada opened the latest file while the traditional fisheries and salmon farmers await the outcome of the department's investigation into who dumped the poison cypermethrin into the bay last year.

On Nov. 19 the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association reported dead and dying lobsters in their traps to Environment Canada. More were found off Pocologan Nov. 23 and near a wharf in Fairhaven, Deer Island, Dec. 3.

Environment Canada collected samples of affected lobsters from Grand Manan and Deer Island as well as fish, mussels and kelp.

The samples went to the Moncton laboratory. Environment Canada then gathered information from other regulatory agencies and industry.

The laboratory tests showed that the dead lobsters from Grand Manan and Deer Island were exposed to cypermethrin, a chemical not certified for use in marine environments in Canada and known to kill crustaceans, including lobster.

Environment Canada opened an investigation Dec. 22 into the cause of dead and dying lobsters near Grand Manan. It then opened an investigation Feb. 10 into the lobster kill near Deer Island.

Enforcement is part of the department's mandate, as outlined in section 36(3) of the federal Fisheries Act, which prohibits depositing substances deleterious to fish into fish-bearing water.

"The investigation is still underway and evidence is being gathered. It would be inappropriate to provide further information at this time," the department said in an email.

New Brunswick farmers use cypermethrin to kill potato bugs. The United States, but not Canada, licenses a product called Excis containing cypermethrin to kill sea lice on salmon and other fish raised by the aquaculture industry.

Sea lice have developed resistance to legal pesticides in Canada, especially the in-feed treatment Slice.

This year the aquaculture industry brought three "wellboats" to the Bay of Fundy, treating the salmon in a pesticide bath on board then returning them to their sea cages.

Because of the time the federal authorities took to license the pesticide in question, the bleaching agent hydrogen peroxide, the wellboat program did not start till June, Cooke Aquaculture Inc. vice-president communications Nell Halse said in an interview.

Hydrogen peroxide threatens the environment less than other products licensed to kill sea lice, aquaculture and fisheries officials agree.

However, it does not work well in warm water. When the heat wave struck this summer the wellboats switched to Salmosan until the bay cooled in recent weeks, New Brunswick Salmon Growers' Association executive-director Pamela Parker said.

The wellboat program will continue into the fall to reach every New Brunswick salmon cage, she said.

Aquaculture spokespersons including Halse and Parker caution against connecting dots from the battle with sea lice to the cypermethrin identified last year.

The industry has four legal sea lice pesticides: hydrogen peroxide and Salmosan for bath treatment, Slice and Calicide for in-feed. An application is pending to use Alphamax, already tried experimentally, next year.

The industry wants a suite of products so that it can switch from one to another before the sea lice develop resistance.

Traditional fisheries spokespersons, Maria Recchia with the Fundy North Fishermen's Association and Melanie Sonnenberg with the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association among them, do not believe the salmon farmers can beat sea lice with more chemicals. They see the solution in fewer salmon in the cages.

On Sept. 8 a Campobello Island man planning to take advantage of an extremely low tide to pick periwinkles discovered the dead creatures that prompted Environment Canada to send samples to the laboratory, Recchia said.

The smell assaulted the man before his eyes fell on the dead lobster covering the beach, Recchia said.

"The suspicion would be, was something illegal used on this site?" she said.

The concentration of cypermethrin in Excis, the formulation that Maine salmon farmers use, would not cause the devastation noted last year off Grand Manan, Deer Island and Pocologan, Recchia insisted.

It had to be the agricultural formulation sold under Ripcord and other brand names, she said.

Recchia and Sonnenberg scoff at the suggestion that the cypermethrin came from agricultural run-off given the lack of potato or blueberry fields on the Fundy islands. Certainly not in November and December, Sonnenberg said.

At the very least having Environment Canada investigators poking around has to do some good, Sonnenberg said, with everyone watching for the laboratory results from Moncton with interest.<

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