A study of molluscs as indicator organisms to determine if hydrocarbon contamination may have had an impact on the decline scallops in the Port au Port Bay, NL
In 2013 the scallop fishery in the Port au Port Bay area in NL collapsed. At a similar time members of the local Fishery Committee noted petroleum hydrocarbon leaking to the bay near an abandon exploration well. The Fishery Committee wants to know if there is a connection between these two events. This research will create a detailed map of hydrocarbon distribution radiating from the suspected source of petroleum hydrocarbon contamination in the bay. We propose to do this by using new environmental sensors developed by Memorial University. Since there are no scallops to be sampled we propose to study other indicator organisms (i.e., other more resilient molluscs) with similar feeding mechanisms and environmental niches as the scallops that once lived in the bay. We will qualify the health of the molluscs using measureable health indices, and use statistical methods to determine if there is a correlation between poor health and the extent of petroleum hydrocarbon incorporation into the biomass of the molluscs. If it is determined that the petroleum hydrocarbon contamination is affecting the health of the molluscs in the bay, then oil exploration environmental policy regarding pollution prevention and remediation should be put in place, not only for the Port au Port Bay, but other regions in NL as well.
There are 4 objectives for this research:
Objective 1 - create a map of hydrocarbon concentrations radiating from the source location;
Objective 2 - determine the extent of petroleum hydrocarbon incorporation into the biomass of the molluscs;
Objective 3 - compare the health of the mollusc population in the Port au Port Bay which has experienced the collapse in the scallop fishery, to the health of the mollusc population in the adjacent bay, St. George's Bay, which has not reported problems with their scallop population; and
Objective 4 - determine if there is a link between mollusc health and petroleum hydrocarbon incorporation.