Aquaculture North America

Newfoundland researchers say climate change impacts haven’t hit industry, but coming

November 23, 2023
By Matt Jones

Memorial University’s Dr. Kurt Gamperl says while increased storm activity and intensity is an immediate concern, the impacts of rising ocean temperatures will be a long-term problem. Photo: Kurt Gamperi

Professors from Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) are advising that climate change hasn’t significantly hit the province’s aquaculture industry yet, but it will. 

Dr. Paul Snelgrove, a MUN professor and associate scientific director of the Ocean Frontier Institute, was quoted by the CBC as saying that increasing ocean temperatures will be the biggest challenge, as diseases spread more rapidly in warmer water.

“Thinking about fishes and mussels, which are the main species that are grown around here, both are temperature-sensitive, and growth rates will vary as a function of temperatures,” said Snelgrove.

Snelgrove’s MUN colleague, Dr. Kurt Gamperl – a comparative physiologist with a focus on how environmental and physiological variation affects fish biology – agrees, though he notes that the impacts of ocean temperature changes on the aquaculture industry will be a problem in the long term, not in the short term. In the immediate future, the increased frequency and intensity of storms will be the more pressing concern.

“That is going to be a challenge for the aquaculture industry going forward,” says Gamperl. “They’ll need to work on different net designs, different infrastructure to ensure that their cages and everything else can withstand that extra storm activity and intensity.”

Looking at the long-term ocean temperature impacts, Gamperl says that selecting fish for improved performance in warmer temperatures will be beneficial.

“They’re going to have to look at developing fish that will perform better at high temperatures,” says Gamperl. “The temperatures aren’t going to become lethal, but they may become sub-optimal during parts of the year.”

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