SHIP COVE, NL — One of the largest conservation organizations in Canada hopes to soon bring a common spawning habitat for capelin back to life near Placentia.
News was announced Wednesday of a $3-million investment from the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Coastal Restoration Fund to support World Wildlife Fund Canada and its partners to work in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“We're challenged across Canada with very significant declines in wildlife species, and in the Atlantic provinces it's the decline of fish species and shorebirds,” David Miller, president and CEO of WWF-CANADA, told The Compass. “This Coastal Restoration Fund is a very important step in trying to slow down and reverse those population declines.”
One of the sites where WWF-CANADA will aim to monitor and restore a coastal habitat is in Ship Cove. A short drive from Placentia, the local beach served as a spawning habitat for capelin as recently as a decade ago. However, after the site was used as a gravel pit, that habitat was destroyed. Heavy machinery will move the rocks back into a position where capelin can roll in.
“The gravel that the capelin need to roll in was moved to the back of the beach a decade ago or so, and it needs to be moved back to the oceans,” said Miller, who is also optimistic about seeing capelin back there in 2018.
“In Ship Cove, we're pretty positive, and we're hopeful that we will see the capelin roll again next year,” he said. “In the bigger picture sadly, collectively we've had a far too negative impact on nature, but this fund, the Coastal Restoration Fund, is an excellent and long overdue initiative, and a very good start to helping reverse some of the human impact on nature.”
In a news release, Fisheries and Oceans Canada billed the project as an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management that will make use of local knowledge and scientific research.
“We have a national and international perspective, but local organizations are exceptionally important to doing real work on the ground,” said Miller. “So we have indigenous groups in Labrador, local groups working on conservation, and of course scientists at both Memorial University and the University of Manitoba who have the necessary science-based expertise.
“And that's particularly important with the capelin, because the capelin are important in their own right. They're also important as forage fish for cod and we simply don't know enough about them, so having scientists involved as well as community partners and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is essential if we're going to restore shorelines and help the capelin roll in again in places where they once were and are no longer.”
Work on site is scheduled to begin Wednesday. Community-based monitoring and rehabilitation teams will be established in hopes of empowering stewards who can then work to protect an important resource for the local economy.
“But it's sort of the other way around,” Miller added. “People have expressed significant interest in addressing these problems, so the idea is to use the energy and interest they've expressed, both from a citizen science perspective ... people documenting what they see, and also these rehabilitation projects.”