Posted by: marineharvestcanada | February 8, 2010

Collaborative project sheds light on Broughton Clam Beaches

Working collaboratively with the ‘Namgis First Nation the Kwicksutaineuk-Ah’Kwak’ah’mish First Nation and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Marine Harvest has spearheaded a  two year project designed to address First Nation’s concerns about a possible link between changes to clam productivity and quality and site operations.

In addition to salmon farming, possible human disturbances in the area include impacts from forestry operations such as woody debris buildup in the marine environment, said Sharon DeDominicis, Marine Harvest Canada’s Environmental Sustainability Manager. The project was an opportunity to learn more about what factors impact bivalve populations, she added.

“We wanted to get a clear idea of what’s going on and Fisheries and Oceans Canada was involved too since they’re the agency responsible for the management of clam populations.” stated Sharon. Officially titled the “Assessment of Impacts to Natural Beaches and Culturally Modified Clam Gardens in the Broughton Archipelago,” the study centered on the Port Elizabeth and Larsen Island farm site areas. Bivalve sampling was done at different distances from the sites, ranging from 200 to 1,000 meters in order to examine  the interaction between aquaculture operations and the clam beaches and terraces.

In addition to focusing on beaches where clams have traditionally been harvested, the half-million dollar project included studying First Nations clam terraces, or gardens. These ancient one-two meter high rock walls were constructed at the low-water level and acted as breakwaters to allow the clams to flourish while protected from the strong currents.

“The clam gardens have “huge cultural significance” for the area’s First Nations.” Sharon stated.

Throughout the spring and summer, approximately 5,000 clams were collected and studied. A variety of information was gathered, including digital pictures showing the location and quantity of clams on the beaches, as well as the approximate ages of the adult and juvenile clams. Sea grass, algae, and sediment surveys were also included in the inventory of habitat and clam populations. The sediment samples collected will provide information regarding the history of the clam terraces.

The beaches chosen for the study were based in part on knowledge shared by local First Nations regarding areas where clam gathering was done in generations past.

The project team not only included Marine Harvest and DFO staff but also included reps from the ‘Namgis Nation, the Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences, and consultants who offered additional technical expertise.

The field portion of the project is now complete and written results are expected by February 2010. They will include future considerations for longterm monitoring and procedures that are intended to preserve or increase clam productivity as well as providing a direction for possible future research.

By Gina Forsyth


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