Last fall a national workshop was held on the impacts of sediments, nutrients and contaminants on coastal fisheries health and productivity.  The workshop was presented through a joint effort by the Canadian Fisheries Research Network (CFRN) and the Canadian Rivers Institute (CRI), both housed at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.  Approximately 30 people relinquished their Hallow’s Eve to attend the collaborative workshop in Moncton on October 31-November 1, 2012.  Invitees included industry representatives, including First Nations, from both Pacific and Atlantic coastal marine fisheries and inland freshwater fisheries; and scientists from universities and government.  The workshop aims were to identify research priorities related to the impacts of sediments, nutrients and contaminants on the health and productivity of fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, and to begin to formulate possible new research initiatives requiring a collaborative approach to address those priorities.  

The workshop kicked off with fishing industry participants tabling their key issues and concerns about sediments, nutrients and contaminants.  They expressed concerns related to the impacts of a number of activities including, but not limited to:  salmon aquaculture, mussel farming, land-based farming, heavy industries, shipping, dams, climate change and cumulative effects.  Next, scientists from universities and government helped to establish what is already known about the issues and concerns raised based on existing research, and where there are gaps in the knowledge.  Participants then self-selected into three small groups – each of which included industry, academic and government representatives – to discuss in more detail one of the following topics:  contaminants (including sediments), nutrients and invasive species, and climate change.  Participants were also very interested in the topic of cumulative effects but lacked the time to discuss it in detail at this workshop.  From the discussion groups emerged potential research questions and the groundwork for initiatives around which funding proposals could be developed. 

It was apparent from the workshop that the impacts of sediments, nutrients and contaminants on fisheries are seen as important issues and high priorities for the current and future integrated management of coastal activities.  A common theme among all groups was the need to involve the fishing industry in collecting data and information more strategically.  Better and more engagement and links to policy are also needed.  Some participants felt that additional industry groups (such as terrestrial and aquaculture stakeholders) should have been represented at the workshop and should be involved in future discussions on these topics.  They maintained that all stakeholders must be at the table early on if the research outcomes are to impact policy.  Some best practices from a workshop perspective were noted, including the need to use the right language for the audience – especially at collaborative meetings that bring together different groups – and the importance of the co-construction process, collaborative approach, and policy context in developing these types of research projects.

A full report of the workshop is underway and will identify the key industry concerns, priority research questions, and preliminary proposals for new research initiatives related to this topic, and next steps.  The report will be made available on the CFRN website.  Stay tuned!