At Indian Point Marine Farms Ltd., we are extremely interested in the concept of sustainability and endeavor to ensure that our mussel farming is not negatively impacting our environment in any significant way. Indeed, for a mussel farm to be successful, we must have clean water and we must not exceed the carrying capacity of our leases. Mussels are filter feeders and we provide no additional food so our production is limited by the size of our aquaculture leases. Over the twenty-four years that we have been in business, we have tried to maximize production by crowding long-lines on our leases but have learned that lower grow-out densities result in faster growing times and better quality mussels. The Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries has initiated an Environmental Monitoring Program and after extensive sampling has concluded that our operation has had no significant negative effect on our local marine environment. This was significant as at that time, some of our leases had been in continual mussel production for more than twenty years.
About six years ago, we switched our method of production from growing our mussels in polypropylene socks which could only be used once and then had to go the local landfill, to using biodegradable cotton socking to bind the mussels to reusable mussel ropes. For flotation we have stopped using styrofoam buoys which were not biodegradable but which did break up, and started using pressurized hard plastic floats. These are lasting quite well and have the added benefit of being very useful and desirable to other users of the marine environment if they happen to come adrift and land on the beaches.
Our baby mussels or spat, which we put on our leases in October, are a very desirable food for our overwintering duck population, (scoters and long-tailed ducks). By deploying the new spat at a very heavy density on two of our leases which are quite close to the mainland, we have managed to keep duck predation to a minimum as the ducks prefer to be more offshore around the islands. We then reseed the mussels at a proper grow-out density onto the more offshore leases the next spring after the ducks have left on their northward migration. When they return the following fall, the mussels are too big for them. This practice means that we don’t have to chase or scare ducks away from our leases.
Our suspended mussel culture has provided an ideal substrate for the tunicate, Ciona intestinalis that has become a terrible fouling pest on ours and many other mussel farms in Atlantic Canada. We have been very active in developing a method to control C. intestinalis by puncturing them with high pressure sea water, after which they die and disappear in just a few weeks. We are still testing this procedure but it appears to be very promising and to have no adverse environmental effects.
We are developing a comprehensive Environmental Management Programme that will examine our practices from an environmental point of view and will dictate changes that we should make in our operation if required.
We are examining the possibility of certifying our mussels as organic. We believe in the organic movement and believe that mussel farming is inherently an organic process. We are developing our connections with the organic community and hope to enter the Transition phase within the next few months.