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NORTH BAY – A changing climate – resulting in prolonged droughts, warmer waters and lower oxygen levels – is prompting a large hatchery in Nova Scotia to adapt.

Alan McNeill, director of inland fisheries for the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, says significant changes have been made after a three-month period of minimal rain in 2020.

The impact was observed at the Frasers Mills hatchery, located in Antigonish County. Frasers Mills is one of three hatcheries operated by the province and is home to 650,000 cold-water trout and salmon that are released each year.

Last year’s drought, combined with warming waters, which means lower oxygen content, has created conditions where fish can become stressed, making them more vulnerable to disease, parasites and death.

“We’re definitely seeing more prolonged droughts,” McNeill told Your Morning on CTV Thursday.

Although fish are quite resilient, he says, they are capable of succumbing to viral and bacterial diseases, as well as parasites, when stressed.

The hatchery has records dating back to 1926 which have highlighted changing climate trends.

While efforts have been made to try to alleviate the situation, including adding additional oxygen, longer-term solutions, such as recycling the water, are being explored.

“Most of the commercial hatcheries are recirculating systems where they can control the water, they can control the water quality, the temperature and filter the water, so at the end of the day that’s the solution we have. believe for the Frasers Mills hatchery, ”McNeill said.

“We now have extra oxygen, but we really can’t handle more prolonged droughts.”

He says they received a study last week that was commissioned from an aquaculture consultancy that provided some options to address the issue, with more discussions to come as to how to not just put plans in place. , but also finance them.

“So in the long term we certainly see the water recirculated, collecting it, filtering it as a solution, and we can certainly control factors such as disease and water quality filtrations,” he said. McNeill said.

In its latest budget, the federal government set aside $ 647.1 million over five years to combat declining Pacific salmon populations, which is in part due to the climate.

A report released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday, meanwhile, showed that the production and value of the Canadian aquaculture industry fell in 2020 in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sales of aquaculture products and services fell 16.8% from 2019 to $ 1.1 billion, mainly due to lower domestic prices for fishery products and lower production levels of fish and shellfish.

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