Coastal communities buoyed by new VIU fish-health lab

Communities dependent on fisheries are getting help in protecting British Columbia’s fish stocks through the new, provincially funded Centre for Innovation in Fish Health at Vancouver Island University (VIU).

“Our coastal communities depend on healthy fish stocks for their economic, social and spiritual well-being. For too long, the necessary investments and protections required to ensure the long-term viability of this precious resource have been neglected,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. “The new Centre for Innovation in Fish Health at VIU is going to help make sure our fisheries are viable and prosperous for generations to come.”

Climate change is threatening the sustainability of coastal communities that depend socially and economically on fisheries. Fluctuating environmental conditions, such as water temperature and oxygen content, are putting strain on fish populations crucial to Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities alike.

The new laboratory is being developed to meet the federal regulations of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for Aquatic Animal Pathogen Level 2. This level of biosecurity can accommodate research into a broad range of diseases relevant to fish in B.C. while maintaining high standards of safety.

An investment of $215,000 from the Province is funding equipment and renovations, helping to kick-start a strategic partnership between Indigenous communities, industry, not-for-profits, government and the educational sector.

Government is committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Funding for the Centre for Innovation in Fish Health supports Indigenous peoples’ right to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence (Article 20) and the continuing improvement of their economic and social conditions (Article 21).

In December 2018, the B.C. government launched the CleanBC plan. CleanBC puts B.C. on a path to a cleaner, better future, with a low-carbon economy that creates opportunities for all, while protecting the province’s clean air, land and water. The research produced by the Centre for Innovation in Fish Health will contribute to CleanBC by helping understand and protect natural ecosystems.

Quotes:

Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology –

“Technology, innovation and research play a key role in the sustainability of our food supply, including fisheries. To help maintain the well-being of this valued food source, we’re supporting the next generation of scientists who will ensure B.C.’s fisheries are healthy for the long term.”

Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-Cowichan North –

“So many communities here on Vancouver Island, and up and down the B.C. coast, depend on the health of our fish stocks, so I’m proud to have this new research facility right here in Nanaimo. We’re going to train the next generation of scientists and keep B.C. coasts healthy and prosperous.”

Ralph Nilson, president, Vancouver Island University –

“This investment in Vancouver Island University will support our continued leadership in fish and shellfish research. This new laboratory, and the advanced environments it can simulate, will foster partnerships between researchers, industry and concerned communities throughout B.C. It will help VIU become a worldwide hub for innovation in fish health.”

Scott Britney, fourth-year biology student, Vancouver Island University –

“Having a research facility such as this here at VIU is a tremendous opportunity for students to contribute meaningful research that is directly connected to their community. It allows us to work at the same level as professionals in the industry and gain from their expertise and knowledge.”