Oceans Protection Plan Project

On November 7, 2016, the Prime Minister launched a $1.5 billion national Oceans Protection Plan that improves marine safety and responsible shipping, protects Canada's marine environment, and offers new possibilities for Indigenous and coastal communities. As part of this initiative, Fundy North will be completing a 3 year project we have titled 'Mapping and ground-truthing fishermen’s knowledge of surface currents in the Bay of Fundy area'. This project will be conducted from 10/15/2018 to 03/31/2022 and is relevant to DFO's project area of Aquatic Systems Oceans and Climate Change Science. There is an identified lack of detailed scientific data on Bay of Fundy surface currents outside of Saint John Harbour. Mapping fishermen’s knowledge of surface currents and conducting a study of currents with drifters in the Bay of Fundy area will build the knowledge base of oceanographic and hydrographic data for the area; it will contribute to the available knowledge for characterizing coastal ecosystems and support evidence-based decision making. 


In order to be successful in the Bay of Fundy, inshore commercial fishermen must have a vast and detailed knowledge of surface currents. These currents determine how they set fishing gear and when they have access to haul their gear. The development of this knowledge base is intergenerational; passed down from grandfather to father to son. Although there has been oceanographic study of Bay of Fundy currents, the science base is limited and does not contain the level of detail and richness that the fishermen’s knowledge affords. 


In light of increased human activity, e.g., shipping, in and around the Saint John Harbour region, documentation of the state of knowledge regarding surface currents (both fishermen’s and science-based) is a key component of characterizing and understanding the coastal marine ecosystem there in order to put in place measures to mitigate potential impacts of these activities on species, habitats and commercial fisheries throughout the Bay of Fundy. Additional documentation of fishermen’s knowledge will add value to this. 


The overall goal of this project is to add pertinent information to the tools available to decision-makers. Fishermen’s knowledge can fill some of the gaps that exist in oceanographic data, at a fraction of the cost of purely scientific data collection methods. By documenting fishermen’s knowledge and using that to direct a targeted drifter study, this project aims to maximize the knowledge generated from a limited budget. This project contains four major components: 1. mapping fishermen’s knowledge of surface currents in the Bay of Fundy with emphasis on areas influenced by Saint John Harbour; 2. Developing hypothetical story maps through focus groups of fishermen experts and scientists; 3. Conduct drifter studies (with Saint John Harbour releases) to ground-truth current knowledge; 4. Convene a workshop with fishermen and oceanographers to discuss the results of parts 1-3 and direct the format for reporting. 


Both mapping activities (#1&2 above), workshop (#4) and final project reporting will be conducted in partnership with University of New Brunswick Departments of Anthropology and/or Geomatics and will work with graduate students. The drifter study (#3) will be conducted with the advisement of DFO oceanographers and may employ a student or technician to aid in data management and analysis.


Building relationships between the fishing community and oceanographers will advance future opportunities for collaboration and/or citizen science that can contribute to open data for the local Bay of Fundy marine ecosystem.