Monitoring EBSAs

This project evaluates different seabed video survey protocols and tests new imaging technologies. Field investigations will use diver-held and surface-deployed seabed imaging systems to document spatial distribution and characteristics of sea squirt and horse mussel beds.

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Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) can be good candidates for protection as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). EBSAs identified for their significance for species that occupy seabed (also termed benthic) habitats may also receive consideration under DFO’s Sensitive Benthic Areas (SBA) Policy which aims to mitigate impacts of fishing, or avoid impacts (including indirect effects) likely to cause serious or irreversible harm to sensitive seabed habitat, communities or species. Within the Bay of Fundy, the coastal Head Harbour/ West Isles/Passages EBSA is under consideration for both spatial management approaches. Two species present within the EBSA, stalked sea squirt and horse mussel, form structural features on the seabed that provide habitat features that are used by other species. Both species have life history traits that elevate the risk of serious or irreversible harm from seabed-contact fishing. Current limited knowledge on the spatial extent of these species and other SBA features within the EBSA preclude defining spatial boundaries to guide conservation management decisions. Structurally complex coastlines with adjacent islands and sub-littoral reefs in this, as well as other coastal EBSAs, represent challenging environments within which to assess seabed species assemblage characteristics. Outputs from the project will contribute to the assessment of spatial management options and will evaluate the utility of seabed video surveys for identification, characterization and monitoring of coastal conservation areas.

Project Deliverables / Achievements

  • Recommendations/Toolbox for coastal seabed video survey approaches to support Marine Protected Area designation, and monitoring and evaluation of Sensitive Benthic Areas are in progress.

  • New coastal underwater camera deployment and image capture protocol to support Marine Protected Area designation and monitoring and evaluation of Sensitive Benthic Areas is proposed.

  • A new software tool – a package in R - to automate the merging and plotting process for the GPS, temperature, depth, image and video analysis data is in progress.

  • Initial field surveys in Deer Island EBSA and previously unsurveyed regions and depths of the Head Harbour / West Isles Passages EBSA is completed.

  • The first quantitative georeferenced coastal datasets of Boltenia and Modiolus within the Fundy Isles region and the entire Bay of Fundy is created.

  • R scripts for automating navigation data processing, and protocols to run and compare different SDMs is ready.

  • A document of the seabed survey system and at-sea data capture protocols, along with representative images and map-based survey coverage is completed.

  • Species distribution modelling (SDM) results of Boltenia and Modiolus presented to DFO Maritimes (coastal MPA planning).

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Bay of Fundy - Head Harbour/West Isles/Passages EBSA