You are here

Residents, fish farm seek source of scummy substance in bay

Residents, fish farm seek source of scummy substance in bay

Dec 16  2013          Chronicle Herald

Published December 16, 2013 - 6:58pm

SHELBURNE — Gooey off-white sea scum has been washing up on the shoreline of Jordan Bay, and residents want to know where it comes from.

Is it harmful to people, the environment, shore birds or sea creatures?

Some have an idea its tied to open-pen salmon farms a couple of kilometres away. Two Jordan Bay salmon farming sites operated by Cooke Aquaculture Inc. received government approval in 2012.Residents first saw the mystery scum around the end of July and have seen it many times since.

The rougher the weather, the more of it washes up on shore.

It has left “a permanent white bathtub ring in the tidal pools here,” said local resident Sindy Horncastle, who took several photos of the substance.

It’s been coming ashore on mainland beaches, north of the McLean Island and Gull Rock areas of Shelburne County.

“It’s not foam. It’s actually something that you can scoop up with a spoon,” Horncastle said Monday.

She took samples and placed them in a jar of water. She said the substance congealed into a mass and sank to the bottom.

A few residents decided to send samples to a laboratory in New Brunswick.

“It’s mineral oil,” Horncastle said. “We’ve never seen it before.”

She said it is known that mineral oil can be used in the aquaculture industry as a stabilizer in vaccines, or in pesticides and algaecides.

Perhaps, but it was not used in Jordan Bay by fish farmers, a spokeswoman for Cooke Aquaculture said Monday.

“We’ve asked the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture to do some testing as well because if, in fact, there is mineral oil there, it’s certainly not coming from our farm,” said Nell Halse, vice-president of communications with the company.

“We are equally concerned about determining what this substance is as we don’t want it to impact our operations.”

Halse said she checked with a scientist who thought the substance might be salt.

“If the company says we have no idea, what is the government doing?” Horncastle said.

“This is a lobster fishing bay. It’s a lobster nursery. So what is the source? Is it harmful? We sent the photos to the government.”

The community has asked the province to investigate.

Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Keith Colwell responded to a letter from Horncastle, saying his department is collecting samples for potential analysis.

Department spokeswoman Krista Higdon said Monday that an insufficient amount of the substance was available to analyze when an inspector visited the site, but one will return to collect a sample if more goo washes up.

Colwell said in his letter that a community liaison committee composed of community and industry members is the best way to address such issues.But it would have no authority to act, Horncastle said.

Residents should be able to contact their elected representatives directly, she said.

“Our main goal is just to let the public know what’s happening.”


Dec 18 2013          Chronicle Herald

Sea scum in Jordan Bay worries residents

Published December 18, 2013 - 8:04pm
Fisheries official says foam in ocean ‘natural’ after storms
This extensive, rather thick mat of foam floated off West Green Harbour earlier this week in Jordan Bay where two open pen salmon farming sites are located. Residents have been photographing the sea scum and want to know more about it. (CONTRIBUTED)

YARMOUTH — More mats of sea scum have been seen floating in Jordan Bay this week, and that has some folks wondering where the substance is coming from.

A resident living on the eastern side of the bay said Wednesday he saw a large clot of sea foam and wondered if it was related to aquaculture operations.

A resident on the distant western shore of the bay said earlier this week that sea scum has appeared there a few times since midsummer.

“It’s not foam. It’s actually something that you can scoop up with a spoon,” Sindy Horncastle said.

Private testing revealed it was mineral oill

Mineral oil, Horncastle said, may be used in the aquaculture industry in medicines or treatments.

A resident on the other side of Jordan Bay who asked to remain anonymous said he photographed a large mat of sea scum.

“I have seen that stuff before,” he said. “It was a massive quantity (Monday). I haven’t seen it like that before.

“This is a huge concern.

“I can’t imagine why suddenly this stuff appears on the water.”

Cooke Aquaculture spokeswoman Nell Halse said Wednesday the company does not know where the foam is coming from.

“We had high winds and heavy seas on the weekend, and it is normal for these conditions to generate sea foam,” she said.

A provincial Fisheries & Aquaculture Department source concurred Wednesday that it’s “absolutely natural” to find large accumulations of foam, scum and debris in the ocean after storms.

Halse, Cooke’s vice-president of communications, said “our farms are a half to (a) full kilometre from shore, so it is hard to imagine that anyone could determine that foam on the shore comes from the farms.”

She said more needs to be known about the substance before the media reports again on unfounded allegations.

“Before the fish farm came in, I’d never seen anything like that,” said the resident from the eastern side of the bay.

Since fish farming began, he said, he’s seen smaller quantities of similar-looking stuff floating near shore.

“But I’ve certainly never seen the huge mass that I saw a couple of days ago,” the man said.

Halse said in an email Wednesday that “we are not using any chemicals or pesticides on the farms in Jordan Bay.”

She said vaccines are administered in the hatchery long before any fish are transferred to the farms.

Halse said if fish farm crews are able to locate the substance in question, they will test it.

The province has also said it will test any foam that washes up again.

A Fisheries & Aquaculture employee was unable to find a sufficiently large sample of the foam during a previous visit.

Copyright APES 2012 Website by Ionsign Online