Multiscale spatial analysis of hydrodynamic conditions to improve models of disease transmission in finfish aquaculture

Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Barrell (Dal.U.)
Co-Investigators: Jon Grant (Dal.U.), Ramon Filgueira (Dal.U.) & Raphael Vanderstichel (UPEI)

The spread of disease and pathogens represents a serious threat to the global finfish aquaculture industry, as it reduces economic output and diminishes the environmental health of farmed areas. Hydrodynamic processes (i.e., currents and waves) determine connectivity between aquaculture sites and can influence the spread of disease and pathogens, and are important considerations for ensuring economic and environmental sustainability in area planning and zone management. High-resolution hydrodynamic circulation models are expensive and require expertise often unavailable to industry and government regulators. An alternative method of estimation of water mixing for a particular bay or estuary is through a segmented tidal prism (i.e., the volume of water exchanged in a defined area between high and low tide).

This research merged expertise in oceanographic modeling and epidemiology to evaluate the suitability of tidal prism calculations for use in models of disease and pathogen transmission in finfish aquaculture. Using data collected from oceanographic sensors and sonar surveys, we created 2D hydrodynamic models of two bays in Nova Scotia. Calculations of the tidal prism were compared to connectivity results from hydrodynamic models and evaluated for use in existing models of disease and pathogen transmission.

Our research provides direct benefits for industry and government regulators, and will support ongoing and future collaborations in marine spatial planning for aquaculture. This work lays a foundation for future multidisciplinary research to improve the management of fish health in aquaculture and maximize sustainability for all sectors involved.