The Concise Oxford dictionary defines compensation as “…to make amends, offset deficiency by developing another characteristic”. If dictionaries came with real-life examples, Marine Harvest would be a powerful one indeed.
Whenever there is any sort of structure added to the marine environment that disturbs or disrupts fish habitat, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) requires that compensation, or restoration, is carried out, said Sharon DeDominicis, Environmental Sustainability Manager.
Known as its “No Net Loss” policy, this regulation is mandatory for not only all aquaculture companies but any company such as those involved in power generation and forestry that changes the seabed in what DFO deems to be a negative manner, she added.
In aquaculture, the compensation is based on a site by site study of the “waste footprint,” measured by underwater filming of what life is present and how much there is. This productivity rating of biomass and its abundance determines what level of restoration is required.
In the past Marine Harvest has built rock reefs, specifically at Englewood and in Kyuquot Sound at Fair Harbour, leading to habitat that is now suitable for numbers of octopus who make their homes amongst the rocks.
“We brought the habitat back and the critters followed”, said DeDominicis.
However, eelgrass habitat compensation is where Marine Harvest can be particularly proud of its track record. Eelgrass is critical to the health of the world’s oceans, providing essential protected areas for a variety of living creatures. But it doesn’t reproduce well and once a bed is gone due to habitat disturbance, it’s extremely slow to come back.
Enter Marine Harvest Canada and Cynthia Durance of Precision Identification, who Marine Harvest has worked with since 2006. In consultation with the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation and DFO, the company chose this crucial plant as its remediation for the sites at Sheep Passage and Lime Point.
The process of placing the eelgrass on the ocean floor is highly labour intensive. The plant is carefully removed from its donor site to land, where a small steel washer is carefully attached to each blade’s root to weigh it down and improve its chances of successful growth. Once this on-land work is complete, each blade is returned to the water and painstakingly placed in its new location.
“It’s a huge net benefit,” said DeDominicis, adding that this form of site remediation has been “totally successful” and each bed planted is “doing fantastic”.
Eelgrass is needed by ocean inhabitants throughout the world and Marine Harvest is doing its part to provide it, often in areas where it didn’t previously flourish.
By Gina Forsyth