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Strategic Project Grants Supplemental Competition Research Topic Descriptions

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Aquaculture (the farming of fish, shellfish, algae and aquatic plants) is expected to account for more than half of all global seafood production by 2030. Despite Canada’s aquatic resources, seafood processing infrastructure and proximity to markets, Canada has not yet developed a significant aquaculture industry. Researchers are encouraged to develop research projects aimed at improving the production efficiency and environmental sustainability of the aquaculture industry.

Research within this topic will be limited to:

(1) Ecosystem Health / Environmental Interactions
Research is required to improve the understanding of the interaction of the culture organisms with and upon their environment. For example, research could focus on pest management, wild and farmed fish interactions, effects of harmful algae, disease interactions, ecosystem indicators and pathways of effects.

(2) Fish & Shellfish Health / Wellness
Healthy fish are indicative of a healthy environment and good husbandry conditions. Environmental conditions can vary widely in the variable climates associated with culture across Canada such that the physiological limits of the organisms can be tested at times in terms of performance. Movement away from inshore protected sites towards more dynamic open ocean conditions could lead to new pressures on the health of the cultured organisms. Effective methods of dealing with exposure to wild pathogens on species in aquaculture production will be required. There is a need to define the interactions of the farmed organisms in terms of health, environment, and to develop mitigation options for maintaining fish health.

(3) Technological Advances
There is an ongoing requirement to improve production technology for shellfish, finfish and seaweed farming to reduce environmental impacts, maintain or improve farmed organism health, to adapt to new and variable environments, and to maintain industry competitiveness in the global economy.

(4) Genetics and Husbandry
Farmed products require well developed broodstocks, adapted to the conditions in the environment. A thorough understanding of farmed animal production attributes through genomics and proteomics approaches is required to advance selective breeding programs to improve shellfish and fish performance for existing species, such as salmon, trout, mussels, oysters and for emerging species such as cod, sablefish, geoduck and abalone.

Capture Fisheries

The Canadian capture fishing industry is large and diverse, with commercial operations off three marine coasts as well as in inland waters and exports about 80 percent of its production. Fishing operations are fuel cost sensitive, and recent months have placed a huge burden on their ability to produce products within the price envelopes that current market conditions will support. Research is needed to assist the industry maintain its competitiveness in an increasingly difficult business situation. Researchers are encouraged to augment current research or develop innovative new projects, directed at addressing the challenges and priority research areas identified by the capture fishing industry.

Research within this topic will be limited to:

(1) Operational efficiency and technology development in the capture fishery
Research is required to improve operational efficiency and promote innovation in the Canadian capture fisheries industry. Research under this topic will include technology development to improve the economic performance and support innovation within the harvesting and processing components of the fishing industry to maintain and improve competitiveness. This is essential to relieve the pressure of rising fuel and operational costs and the threat to foreign export markets from aggressively developing fish product exporters around the world. Research might include improved fuel efficiency on vessels, more cost-efficient fishing gears, waste management, and traceability of Canadian seafood products.

Research related to gear and/or methods adaptation to improve ecosystem sustainability could also be included, such as modifying gear to reduce bycatch and decrease the impact of fishing gears on benthic habitat and technology to facilitate fisheries monitoring and control.

(2) Strategic Issues in Resource and Ecosystem Sustainability
Research is required in a wide range of biological, ecological, and ecosystem science related to resource and ecosystem sustainability. Sustainability is achieved by appropriate management measures informed by sound understanding from a science base. Additional basic and applied science is needed to help ensure that Canadian capture fisheries are sustainable, in order to secure the future of our natural resources, the businesses that depend upon them, and to be in a position to demonstrate to others that this is the case. Research under this topic will include biology and ecology of exploited species, habitat impacts of fishing and ecosystem interactions with fishing operations, for example:
  • Enhanced Knowledge of Habitats and Ecosystems
    Managing for sustainability places additional demands on the need to ensure that the health of the ecosystem and its constituent populations and components are well understood. A range of research is required to address key gaps in our understanding of the biology and ecology of exploited Canadian fishery resources.

  • Ecosystem impacts of fishing
    Fishing industry activities may have an impact on the ecosystem or the status of populations, including exploited resources, biodiversity, and aquatic habitat. Attention has focused on the need to understand the impact that types of fishing activities can have on the ecosystem where the fishery operates. These issues often arise when a sector applies for eco-certification and to meet the requirements for maintaining its certification status. Considerable research is required to understand the fragility and resilience of resources and ecosystems, key indicators of ecosystem status in relation to fishing and the short-, mid-, and long-term effects of fishing. Equally important is research focused on the mitigation of fishing impacts on the ecosystem.

  • Ecosystem-based management practices and resource enhancement initiatives
    Resource enhancement initiatives have been widely undertaken in Canada, and the implementation of ecosystem-based management practices such as closed fishing areas or marine protected areas is increasing. Research is required to develop, support and test new approaches and to understand the success, effectiveness and benefits to the ecosystem and the fisheries involved of existing initiatives.