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Quebec Bulletin
June-July 2016/Volume 19/Number 3

Combatting Vase Tunicate in the Magdalen Islands

Vase tunicate underwater inventory
Vase tunicate underwater inventory

In Fall 2013, the ZIP Committee in the Magdalen Islands, together with Merinov and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, started a targeted response plan to combat the dispersion and establishment of vase tunicate in the Magdalen Islands.

For the time being, this invasive tunicate has only been found at the Cap-aux-Meules wharf, where large quantities were attached under the floating wharfs. While harmless in appearance, animal has nonetheless caused significant damage to Prince Edward Island's mussel industry. This is why it is important to prevent it from spreading and establishing itself elsewhere in the archipelago.

The underside of the floating wharf is overgrown with vase tunicate
The underside of the floating wharf is overgrown with vase tunicate.

In an attempt to eliminate it, 40 floating wharfs at the fishing wharf in Cap-aux-Meules were treated with antifouling paint. This response began with an underwater diving inventory to determine the abundance of the vase tunicate underneath the structures. The docks were then removed from the water and cleaned to clear away any fouling that was present. Lastly, they were covered in antifouling paint before being returned to the water.

To date, observations suggest some promising results. In fact, there have been no observations of vase tunicate on the treated surfaces, and there has been very little additional fouling.

In addition to this work, an awareness-building component aimed at users of the archipelago's ports and marinas (recreational boaters, fishermen and managers) was implemented to demonstrate the importance and effectiveness of maintaining structures ranging from wharfs to boats. Numerous invasive species identification booklets have been given to users encountered over the course of the project. Information about the travel and maintenance of these users' boats was collected, making it possible to detect or monitor the activity of potential sources for introducing or propagating invasive species in the Magdalen Islands.

This initiative was implemented with the support of the Community Action Program, part of the St. Lawrence Action Plan 2011-2026 from the governments of Canada and Quebec, with help from numerous other financial and technical partners: the Centre local de développement des Îles, the Conférence régionale des élus Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine, the Desjardins des Îles caisses populaires, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Merinov, the ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (Innovamer and local office), as well as the municipality of the Magdalen Islands.

The first invasive species observed in the Magdalen Islands was the oyster thief alga in 2003. Since then, other species have been introduced to the archipelago, including the vase tunicate (Ciona intestinalis) from Northern Europe, which was observed for the first time in 2006. These undesirable organisms are usually introduced by commercial and recreational vessels, which carry them in their ballast water or attach themselves to the hulls.

Vase tunicate, Aquatic Invasive Species: Identification booklet

Magdalen Islands ZIP Committee
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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