Marine Research Centre Laboratory Technician Victoria Tobin checks a blood sample from a lobster.

PETIT DE GRAT: The Université Sainte-Anne Marine Research Centre was the recent recipient of funding and donations from the public and private sectors.

In a press release issued on Feb. 25, Invest Nova Scotia announced it is supporting the modernization of the Marine Research Centre in Petit de Grat with funding of $327,000 over two years to create an innovation hub for local industries in the marine and aquaculture sector. The hub will provide a space to solve business challenges, explore research ideas, and collaborate with industry experts, the province noted.

The Government of Canada, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, is investing $125,000 in the project, the province said, noting that the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture is contributing $100,000, and the Northumberland Fishermen’s Association is contributing $100,000 worth of equipment.

“We had some donations as well, partly from the province, from the Building Tomorrow Fund, and then also from the Northumberland Fishermen’s Association, who donated a hatchery that’s part of this overall work too,” said Dan Lane, Interim Director of the Lobster Quality and Innovation Centre. “It’s all linked in to the work that we’re doing at the lab here at the Marine Research Centre.”

Lane said Marine Research Centre Lab Director Michelle Theriault started using applied research to tackle industry challenges back in 2010.

“The idea that we can try to make this more upfront, make it more public, and make people aware that these resources are here and available province-wide; that was attractive to Invest Nova Scotia, that’s something they wanted to see,” he said. “We really picked up on what Michelle was able to do in the past and pull it forward.”

This work entailed working closely with seafood companies and fishermen’s organizations, Lane noted.

“Michelle worked closely with Premium (Seafoods), with Lobsters ‘R Us, with NovaCan, and the groups around here, that also knew her and what was going on, and what capabilities they had at the lab to work together. That collaboration kind of led, over the years, to a province-wide expertise that the lab has here,” he said. “Applied research… is working on problems related to what industry needs, and what Michelle was able to do to bring the communication of that to industry and help with their issues.”

Ultimately, Lane said the centre wants to be a place where the public and industry can learn.

“We’re a university, so there are spaces here, not just at the lab, but in the boardrooms and the classrooms that we have here for training, and how to handle, hold, and developing best practices,” he stated. “All of that together, including the work at the lab and the upgrades at the lab that are being done around hatchery work, through those donations, and the kinds of things we want to work on with aquaculture on kelp and algae, and of course, my end of things here is on the lobster side.”

As part of his job, Lane said he is working on the supply chain for live lobster, from the water to places like China.

“The Marine Research Centre at Petit de Grat is dedicated to ensuring sustainable and competitive fisheries and aquaculture industries through innovation, research and education,” Cape Breton-Canso MP Mike Kelloway stated. “I am pleased to support this project that builds on the centre’s reputation and its important relationships with industry stakeholders.”

According to the centre’s web site, some of their commercial fishing projects include quality assessments of American lobster and snow crab, cultivation of lobster larvae and juvenile lobsters, a juvenile and adult lobster tagging program, and long-term housing and transportation of snow crabs and lobsters over long distances to live markets.

Projects in under new fisheries include an assessment of the biology and distribution of the population of whelks on the east coast of Nova Scotia, and the housing and transport of live shrimp caught in traps, the web site stated.

In aquaculture, the centre is working on the development of a viable source of wild giant scallop spat for the aquaculture industry in Atlantic Canada, a project on spat catchment and breeding of oysters, and another on the breeding of giant scallops.

Projects in Recirculating Aquaculture Systems, entail the application of technology to treat cold water in long-term recirculation systems, the site said.

Under climate change, the centre is collaborating on projects that aim to build the capacity of local communities and address the consequences of climate change.

As for education and tourism project, the web site said they are considering an interpretation centre and guided tours, tailor-made training for marine companies, marine science camps for kids, as well as outreach activities.

“The Marine Research Centre does amazing work to support our local marine sector through education and cutting-edge research,” said Susan Corkum-Greek, Minister of Economic Development. “This project will create an exciting new space, where companies can discover innovative and sustainable business solutions that will help set them up for success.”

Lane said the centre has been fortunate to receive research work through grants that help push the way they conduct research, and how they work with partners.

“Invest Nova Scotia supports innovative projects that will have a long-lasting and sector-wide impact,” Jolene MacEachern, Vice-Chair, Invest Nova Scotia said. “This investment in the Université Sainte-Anne’s Marine Research Centre in Petit de Grat will help create a hub for cutting-edge innovation and an accelerator for applied research. It will contribute to the world-class marine sector in Nova Scotia for years to come.”

Currently, Lane said the lab is a place where industry can be guided, helped, educated, and from that research can be developed.

“This major investment in the Marine Research Centre for the creation of an expertise hub in marine sciences will directly support the fisheries and aquaculture sectors through innovative applied research partnerships,” Allister Surette, President and Vice-Chancellor, Université Sainte-Anne noted. “Université Sainte-Anne is proud to contribute to the economic sustainability of our region.”

Lane added that stakeholders want the lab to continue to be a place to solve problems for industry, and a location for training, meeting, and coaching.

“We have some funding to do bricks and mortar, we’re upgrading the labs, we’re putting in those hatcheries that have been contributed, and getting them up to do seaweed, to do kelp, to do lobster, and oysters. All of these things are going in to the redesign of the lab that’s taking place, including equipment that we’re getting from the lab down in Church Point that’s coming in soon. We’re getting a new tank that’s coming in for lobster, and we’ve just prepared as part of this work that’s being done at the lab, a new saltwater well,” Lane added. “The saltwater well is in the ground now, right up to the lab. This is the part that the Invest Nova Scotia funding is helping us with is making those connections to the lab, changing around some of the walls that are inside to rearrange how we’re setting it up. And moving forward to make it a modern location where we can do the kinds of things that they want to do in the lab.”