Climate change, marine debris, taking toll
‘We really have to consider the impact of climate change on our environment’
It was on September 24,
2022, that post-tropical storm Fiona hit Nova Scotia with hurricane-force strength, causing over $385 million in insured damages.
A little more than eight months later, a wildfire dubbed the largest in Nova Scotia's history was ripping through Shelburne County, fueled by drought conditions and propelled by high winds.
“Our climate is absolutely changing,” says provincial Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Steve Craig.
“When we had Fiona I was thinking if that had hit southwestern Nova Scotia what could we have done to reduce the risk of injury to the industry and especially when it came to (fishing) vessels? How would you get a fleet out of harm's way of a hurricane coming around those waters? What could you do?" he says. "Little did I think that a month or so ago I would have been saying how are we going to get the boats away from the wildfire, off the land and into the water? Flood and fire.”
Minister Craig says one of the main concerns he has as a citizen and as the provincial fisheries minister is the impact of climate change on the fishing industry, as well as Nova Scotia, the world and rural communities.
“How are the fishing species being impacted? Warming
waters, rising sea levels on coastal communities. A lot of processing plants are not very much above the high water mark," he says. "We really have to consider the impact of climate change on our environment. Everything we can do to mitigate that as best as possible we have to look at. There's nothing off the table.”
When it comes to marine debris, Minister Craig says the department will be engaging the seafood processing industry on measures to help prevent litter from reaching shorelines.
“We know the sources of marine debris are multifaceted,” he says. “We're just
going to take a look and see what our plants are currently doing, what filtering systems are being used, make sure we are not doing anything to harm the environment. I know a number of plants have filters at their outfall so there could be debris coming out onto a beach or depending on the tides out into the water. We'll be looking at that.”
The department most recently awarded three $10,000 marine debris strategic grants to community organizations that have been involved in shoreline and ocean cleanup: Atlantic Coastal Action Program Cape Breton, Fishing Gear Coalition of Atlantic
Canada and Scotian Shores.
“Marine litter has a negative impact on the environment, marine and mammal life and the beauty of our coastal communities,” Minister Steve Craig said in a media release announcing the grants. “We all have a role as Nova Scotians in addressing the issue, and this investment will support activities and build capacity for more people to get involved.”
The organizations will develop programs to address marine debris and work in partnership with government agencies and departments to remove litter from the shore. By developing educational materials and holding workshops, the three groups will also help increase public awareness and engagement in coastal communities throughout Nova Scotia.
“For us, we plan to use it to help cover costs of organizing cleanups with fishing industry partners. We are already working with two wharves in the Yarmouth area, Little River and Camp Cove, to help clean up legacy (old and leftover) debris in their areas,” says Angela Riley, founder of Scotian Shores. “We also look forward to helping others in South West Nova, Bay of Fundy and Digby areas with the Marine Debris Grant applications.”