State of the Scotian Shelf

The Scotian Shelf is a 700 kilometre long section of the Continental Shelf, situated between the Laurentian Channel on the northeast and the Northeast Channel/Fundian Channel on the southwest. Large shallow banks are found on the outer part of the shelf, with basins and smaller banks in the middle and inner shelf. The Scotian Shelf is a rich ecosystem characterized by a diversity of marine life, communities and habitats. The Scotian Shelf is also alive with ocean activity. There are a variety of human activities that occur on the shelf both on a year-round and seasonal basis.

The State of the Scotian Shelf Report is a living document made up of a context document and a series of theme or issue papers, listed in the drop down accordian below.

Theme Paper :: At Risk Species

Theme Paper :: Marine Habitats and Communities 

Theme Paper :: Incidental Mortality

Theme Paper :: Invasive Species

The International Convention on Biological Diversity defines biodiversity as the variability among living organisms from all sources including inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems”. Generally, it refers to variety and abundance of organisms in given areas. A diversity of species requires a diversity of habitats. Habitats are the building blocks of the Scotian Shelf ecosystem. They provide homes for the animals, plants, and microbes that inhabit the coastal and offshore waters.

Intact marine habitats in the Scotian Shelf support productive fisheries and serve a host of other functions such as cycling nutrients, filtering pollution, storing carbon, and providing recreation opportunities. Habitats of the Scotian Shelf do not exist in isolation, each habitat functions as part of the larger Scotian Shelf landscape Human activities and natural conditions affect biodiversity through direct and indirect effects on species, communities and habitats.

Major human impacts include: physical and chemical alterations of habitats; unintentional mortality of species; and introduction of non-native species. Canadais a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), an international legally-binding treaty that aims to conserve the world's biodiversity and manage it in a fair and equitable manner to the benefit of society.

Theme Paper :: Primary and Secondary Producers

Theme Paper :: Trophic Structure

Productivity is a measure of the amount of biological material produced in a given area at a given time.  Productivity is a core indicator of ecosystem health.  Productivity can be divided into three components: primary and secondary productivity; trophic structure; and population productivity.

Primary and secondary productivity refers to the production by phytoplankton and zooplankton at the base of the food web and is essential to overall ecosystem function. Trophic structure is a term used to describe the structure of the foodweb.  It results from the way that energy is transferred from the base of the foodweb to top predators through predator-prey interactions.

Population productivity general describes the growth rate of a population (a group of the same species living in a given area).  Productivity is essential to ecosystem health.  It is important to safeguard all levels of productivity against unacceptable impacts from human activities.

Theme Paper :: Fish Stock Status and Commercial Fisheries 

Fishing has been occurring on the Scotian Shelf since the mid-1500s. The industry has experienced many changes over time, including the collapse of the cod stock and the development of a prominent shellfish fishery, and remains an important component of Nova Scotia’s economy. Fishing and fish processing, together with the industries dependent on them, form the economic base for many of Nova Scotia's coastal communities.

The commercial fishery targets over 30 species. Shellfish, including lobster, scallop, snow crab and shrimp are key commercial species. A viable fishing industry is dependent on healthy fish stocks. Fisheries and Oceans Canada monitors the commercial fish stock on the Scotian Shelf and regularly produces stock status reports on individual species. The theme paper, Fish Stock Status and Commercial Fisheries provides information on the key fish stocks and commercial fisheries on the Scotian Shelf.

Theme Paper :: Water and Sediment Quality

Theme Paper :: Ocean Noise

Theme Paper :: Waste and Debris

Marine environmental quality refers to the condition of the physical and chemical elements of the ocean.  This includes the physical and chemical characteristics and conditions of the ocean bottom (e.g. sediments) and the water column.  Good marine environment quality is required to support the growth and health of marine life.

There are many human activities that can alter the physical and chemical conditions of the ocean.  Current issues of concern include noise in the marine environment, waste and debris, and water and sediment quality. These issues are the focus of three theme papers in this section. A fourth theme paper on ocean acidification links with both Climate Change and Marine Environmental Quality. Links to that paper can be found in both theme sections.


Theme Paper :: Emerging Issues

An emerging issue is an issue that is not generally recognized but that may have a considerable impact on environmental (social, economic and ecological) well-being in the future. Emerging issues may have positive or negative impacts. The field of understanding and predicting these possible future impacts is called futures research or foresight.

Environmental policies are often a reaction to the current state of the environment, in order to cure already occurring damages or to remedy environmental problems when they are already in place. But environmental policies need to be able to anticipate future evolutions and apply the precautionary approach in managing them in the light of the uncertainty associated with them. This is particularly important in managing the environment sustainably for future generations.

Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management Initiative

The State of the Scotian Shelf Report is a living document made up of a context document and a series of theme or issue papers. The context document, The Scotian Shelf in Context, provides an introduction to the natural and socio-economic environment, and provides an overview of the Scotian Shelf, particularly for those readers who are not familiar with the region.

The theme papers listed through the buttons above, are based on priorities identified through the Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Management Initiative. They will be developed incrementally during 2011 and 2012 and after that will be regularly updated at time intervals appropriate to each issue. The structure of the papers follows the driving forces-pressure-state-impacts-response (DPSIR) framework.The State of the Scotian Shelf Report is funded by DFO Canaada. 

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