The creature is officially known as the Clubbed Tunicate, and the official DFO advisory reads as follows: “A large population increase of a marine animal known as a ‘Clubbed Tunicate’ has been detected in the southeastern portion of Prince Edward Island. These organisms present no health or other dangers to the public but rather the large infestation presents a condition (known as ‘biofouling’) where the shellfish lines and related gear become covered with tunicates. This presents handling difficulties and increased costs to the shellfish industry.”
The advisory, which was put into effect in October, goes on to say that hauling of mussels and oysters from one area to another is prohibited without a specific permit from the DFO.
What makes this advisory particularly interesting is that it comes at the request of the industry, according to Sandra Gaudet, Prince Edward Island Area Director for the DFO.
She says that the advisory will remain in effect “at least until the end of this season” and adds, “The industry itself asked us to so something, and cooperation so far has been very encouraging. It’s really a case of the industry operating in its own best interests. There have been a lot of requests for permits. Cooperation is especially important so that we can continue to do research.”
“It’s not a ban,” adds Richard Gallant, Manager of Aquaculture for the provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, who is working with the federal government. “It’s simply an effort to control the movement of the Clubbed Tunicate.”
The animal needs more research, Gallant says. “We need to know what, if any, impact the Clubbed Tunicate has on mussel growth and on mussel stocks, not to mention fishing gear. We also need to know whether it can coexist with mussels or whether it will take control of the area. And, of course, we need to know how to control it, and, if necessary, how to kill it. If it is here to stay, then we need to know how to manage it.”
Gallant says that fishermen have to make an application to the DFO in order to move fish. “The Minister can turn the application down flat, or he can say that the move is okay if you do A, B, C, and D.”
Decisions are made according to the degree of risk involved, Gallant says, adding that decisions are being made “as soon as possible.”
According to the DFO advisory, the affected areas are:
“1. All the waters in Queens County, Prince Edward Island, commencing at Burnt Point (near Georgetown) and following the various courses of the coastline in a southerly direction to Cape Bear. This includes all estuaries, tributaries, rivers and bays in this area.
“2. All the waters in the Orwell River and tributaries upstream from a straight line drawn from Penn Point to Birch Point.”