IISD-ELA is undertaking a multi-year research project that will study changes to water quality and fish and aquatic ecosystem health associated with co-culture of fish and wild rice. The general goal of the proposed 5-year project is to evaluate the capacity for wild rice to bioremediate aquaculture waste products (including liquid and solid wastes) and determine what beneficial effects the plants can receive from this treatment in terms of growth/nutrient composition.
This project is a collaborative venture with the Myera group and Indigenous communities (refers to both Metis and First Nations). Myera will mange the project with an overall goal to improve the economies of Indigenous communities by helping them to develop fish aquaculture and use the waste produced from this activity to fertilize cultivated wild rice grown in flooded paddies on land. Canada currently imports 50% of its wild rice from the US, most of which is grown in flooded paddies, a technique not used in Canada. Because the use of fish waste as fertilizer can potentially impact water quality and ecosystem health in downstream waters receiving runoff from the flooded paddies, research is needed to carefully couple the volume of applied fish waste, and its nutrient content, to the area of cultivated wild rice. IISD-ELA will work with Myera, Lakehead University, and Indigenous communities to develop and implement community-based water quality monitoring and to assess the health of resident fish and the quality of aquatic habitat using non-lethal and minimally invasive methods. Specifically, genetic markers of fish health will be developed using fish mucus and aquatic ecosystem health will be examined using environmental DNA and RNA (eDNA/RNA).
This research will allow sustainable practices to be established for the co-culture of fish and wild rice by Indigenous communities. The research also enhances IISD-ELA's ability to assess fish health non-lethally and strengthens our relationships with Northern Ontario Indigenous communities. This project builds on the principles of Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (OCAP) as the first of many building blocks of Indigenous inclusion into the Canadian economy
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Photos supplied by Vince Palace