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Seeking solutions to climate change in NL

Sheldon Peddle is with ACAP Humber Arm Centre. – © Rosalyn Roy / Wreckhouse Press Inc.

By Rosalyn Roy

Senior Staff Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES — Attendees were treated to a soup, sandwich, and tasty desserts during the West Coast Climate Change Workshop held at the College of the North Atlantic library on Wednesday, Nov. 8. Similar sessions were held in Codroy Valley and Pasadena, with 18 guests participating in the Port aux Basques session. The sessions were a joint effort by The Harris Centre at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, EcoNext and CLIMAtlantic. Representatives from ACAP Humber Arm Centre, which focuses on aquatic issues in Western Newfoundland, were also in attendance.

After the introductions and before the slideshow presentations got underway, Sheldon Peddle with ACAP Humber Arm Centre fielded questions on how ghost gear cleanup relates to climate adaptation.

“So ghost gear is any abandoned or lost fishing gear that finds its way into the water. And once in the water, will continue to fish. So, we and a number of other organizations have been active this past summer, both on the southwest coast and south coast, doing at-sea retrieval of nets, traps, all kinds of things. And what we found is, as we pull these out of the water, there’s dead fish in them, there’s lobster in them. So they are continuing to fish, having a detrimental impact on the marine life. Sort of looking a little bit beyond the environmental side of it, they can also become a navigational hazard once they’re in the water, especially shallower waters, if boats were to hit them. But as we were doing this work this summer, we saw an awful lot of gear as well. Of course, you store it near the water, it’s on your slipway, it’s near your fishing shed or whatnot. And the next big extreme weather event, this could end up in the water.”

There has been a lot of cleanup work of ghost gear and other debris swept into the waters along the southwest coast because of Hurricane Fiona last year, and there is more to be done.

“Once it’s in the water, it is doing harm, as I just described. It’s also much more complicated and costly to remove. So I’m trying to be a little bit pro-active. And if there are any fishers anywhere in the southwest area that have old end-of-life gear that they want to dispose of, we will be doing a collection event here down near the Harbour Authority building in Port aux Basques.”

Gear collected at that event, scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 28, will be recycled and re-purposed as much as possible in order to divert it away from the landfill. The group is also hoping to facilitate workshops with fishers, whose knowledge and guidance of where to find a lot of lost gear has become an invaluable time-saving asset.

“So the funding the groups received to do the at-sea retrievals came through Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and it was only for at-sea retrieval. So these community collections now, being a little more pro-active, it’s a new idea that we’re just going to be trying. We’re doing it here in Port of Basques, Burgeo, and another group is going to try it in Gros Morne. But in our discussions with Fisheries, and you know, this is really what you should be funding at step one, as you say, a little bit of an education campaign about how to properly secure your gear on land. You’re not going to tell people to store way inland. It makes sense that they still want it next to their fishing shed or their slipways. But if, you know, there’s extreme weather coming in, perhaps how to secure it a little bit more, how to report it when it is lost, okay, so we know where to go find it, where you’re not out fishing in the dark, basically, right? And we do get an awful lot of support like that. When we were here, every morning, when we were down at the wharf, getting on the boat, getting ready to go out, local fishers, local residents would say, go to this cove, go to this point,” said Peddle. “They could put you almost right on top of it. Otherwise you’re just out, as I say, fishing in the dark, hoping you find something, so that local knowledge is crucial.”

The bulk of the workshop was hosted by Sepehr Khosravi of CLIMAtlantic, but first Christopher Paterson outlined the purpose of the workshop.

“We’d like to get a better sense of kind of, when people hear climate adaptation, what are they interested in doing? How can we be of greater support? How can we make sure that the resources are being brought to bear are sort of on the issues and topics of the greatest interest of folks in different communities and regions?” asked Paterson.

The hope is that by coming together, people who are most affected by climate change can identify needs and help forge solutions. More workshops will be held in other region across the province, after which all of the feedback and data will be compiled into a report.

Khosravi shared details about EcoNext and CLIMAtlantic, and their respective roles and resources available through their websites.

“So basically, we have a vision at CLIMAtlantic. So we primarily focus on adaptation. So when we talk about climate change, there are two major paths to fight against climate change — mitigation and adaptation. So we basically focus on adaptation. And in the space of adaptation in Atlantic Canada, we try to build relationships. We try to provide information and data tools, resources to facilitate decision making for decision makers, and to boost up the research in the adaptation space and to help those stakeholders,” said Khosravi, “Sectors who are, actually, they have some adaptation-related efforts.”

These sectors can include municipalities to forestry to agriculture, provincial governments, academic, and even citizen groups.

“We cannot just look at adaptation through one perspective. So you have to put on other lenses. When you’re talking about adaptation, you’re talking about community resilience. I think people of Port aux Basques are quite familiar with climate impacts or quite familiar with climate change, and the needs and gaps that are essential, that are vital here, and are quite actually familiar with that. And we try to provide information regarding risks, regarding impacts, regarding the vulnerabilities. So you know what your vulnerability is, you know what the needs are, and we try to formulate this, articulate this, and provide the information that is essential to address those gaps and needs for other organizations. We try to identify funding opportunities and facilitate this funding application.”

Since some of these funding opportunities are quite complex, the groups also try to connect the involved parties and will even assist with the actual applications. These opportunities are not necessarily limited to municipalities, organizations or businesses.

“It doesn’t need to specifically be affiliated with the specific organization. You could get a concerned citizen that would like to receive information, that would like to do something impactful for your community. You need information, you need network, you need support to make sure that your voice is heard,” said Khosravi. “We set the stage for you to reflect your voice and make sure that adaptation is actually recognized as a priority in your community.”

They also try to tailor opportunities to fulfill specific needs.

“One of the things that I am personally passionate about is working with municipalities to make sure that they have enough capacity to address coastal erosion or coastal flooding. It’s something specifically about coastal adaptation in the toolkit. It’s a very user-friendly toolkit. Most of these toolkits that are available, maybe not most, but some of these toolkits are very difficult to understand, or the results that they produce are not easily comprehendible for someone who is out of the climate change space. But we try to tailor it down and make it, as much as we can, user-friendly, and based on the evidence that provides a kind of a perspective for you. What is coastal erosion? What is happening at this specific site and what are your options to address these coastal issues? It contains engineering solutions. It contains land-use planning and nature-based solutions. And the good thing about, or I would say that the good feature of this toolkit is that it has two modules,” said Khosravi.

“It has one, community specific, that’s very applicable for decision makers of councils or municipalities, and the other one is very property specific. So if you have a property that is exposed to coastal erosion, you can use it for your own property to figure out. It’s very geographically specific. You can just pinpoint it to a specific location and figure out what are your options, what options you have to avoid. It generates a PDF, an Excel file, and gives you a plain language clarification. What are your options and what you need to do? So it doesn’t advise you, but it gives you a perspective and insight. If you are in conversation, for example, with a contractor, you have this knowledge what the issue is and what you should do. So we try to mobilize this knowledge for you and make it practical when it comes to coastal erosion for users who are out of the climate change. So you don’t need to be a researcher to address coastal erosion when you have these kind of tools or resources.”

Both organizations are non-government organizations (NGO), and non-profits working to find ways to mitigate and adapt for climate change. EcoNext was formerly known as the Newfoundland Environmental Industry Association.

“They have different strategic pillars,” said Khosravi. “What EcoNext does is accelerating or providing the stage for clean growth here in Newfoundland’s laboratory. And it has some subcategories. It could be renewable energy, it could be circular economy, climate action and ocean advance. So under that pile of climate action, as I said, we have two ways to fight against climate change — mitigation and adaptation.”

Khosravi encouraged everyone to get creative to find solutions. One attendee, Lawrence Nditsi, asked about offshore wind energy, and while Khosravi did explain that he can only look at it from the perspective of climate change, and that his focus is primarily mitigation.

“It’s more about what’s the climate impact or the environmental impact associated with offshore wind. So really, offshore wind, technically, we’re generating clean energy, so it’s a way to reduce fossil fuel. So it’s a way to reduce the climate impact as opposed to adapt to it.”

After the presentation, the attendees broke down into groups and began identifying issues. These related almost entirely to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Fiona, and the worry about a similar large scale weather event in the near future.

Suggestions for mitigation included rebuilding town infrastructure, but making it stronger or moving it out of vulnerable areas. Preventing greater shoreline erosion prompted discussion about retaining walls, and breaking large storm surge waves could involve placing structures under the water surface.

Energy was one of the issues identified that did not arise because of Fiona, and there was some discussion about underwater turbines.

Food security was another pressing concern, with some noting that food that comes off the ferry crosses to St. John’s before distribution throughout the province. The amount of extra fuel and wear and tear on the roadways was noted, and one of the solutions suggested was to build a food distribution centre for transport trailers to offload goods immediately after disembarking the ferry. It would also offer a fresher supply of produce to the region, and reduce anxiety about storms, such as the one in November 2021 that saw the Southwest coast cut off from the rest of the province. Green agriculture, such as hydroponics, was another suggestion to address this.

When it came to the housing crisis, some suggested tiny homes as a possible solution, noting they are more affordable and that for smaller families or retired couples they’d also be easier to maintain. Meanwhile the Port aux Basques campus of CNA has re-opened its carpentry program, since certified local contractors are scarce and in high demand.

Climate change continues to take an emotional and mental toll on the population. For those who have homes still left standing, homes that were demolished protected theirs from the sea. Now they feel exposed and vulnerable, even with the mental health resources available.

The groups also identified a need for greater and easier communication outside of Port aux Basques.

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