Algae – About

The marine macroalgae data base was built by Dr. Anissa Merzouk as an activity associated with the NSERC Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in the Conversion of Marine Macroalgae (Merzouk, 2016).

It is a data base that gathers available and accessible information on the composition and distribution of marine macroalgae beds in the intertidal and infralittoral levels along Québec coasts. The historical data stems primarily from the surveys conducted by Marcelle Gauvreau and André Cardinal. Other data sets were gathered from scientific literature, government agencies (MAPAQ, DFO), university researchers, enterprises involved in the harvest of seaweed and from sport divers. Consequently, the current data base includes information about the seaweed biomass and its presence or absence for the period from 1933 to 2012.

With this application, research managers and users from the research field and the industry can display the distribution of a variety of marine seaweed species and consult the related data. In building this tool, the goal was to make it easier to access, disseminate and share electronic data and thus, not only support the development of enterprises that use this biomass but also facilitate marine resource management on the part of government agencies. In addition, by making these data accessible to the public and to research institutes, it helps improve our collective understanding of marine plants that are of capital importance for the development of the marine science and biotechnology sector in Québec (Tamigneaux and Johnson 2016).

Project background

In June 2012, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) attributed a NSERC Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in the Conversion of Marine Macroalgae to the Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles. At the latter’s request, this IRCC conducts its activities at facilities that are part of the École nationale des pêches et de l’aquaculture du Québec (ÉPAQ) and is managed by Merinov, the College Centre for the Transfer of Technology in the Fisheries. Enjoying the support of six partner enterprises, the CRIC in the Conversion of Marine Macroalgae seeks to support the development of an industrial system based on the harvest, culture and conversion of large seaweed.

The CRIC in the Conversion of Marine Macroalgae project program sought first of all to prepare a status report, as complete as possible, detailing everything that was known about the distribution and composition of seaweed beds within Québec territory, then to collate this information in an electronic record that would be easy for users to share and consult and finally, to identify any gaps in terms of data quantity/quality and/or spatial coverage to guide future survey efforts. It was as part of this project that the St. Lawrence Global Observatory (SLGO) developed a first, limited-access Internet tool that allows researchers, enterprises partnering with the CRIC in the Conversion of Marine Macroalgae and government agencies to consult and add to this data base. Some of these data are not public, either because they come from as-yet unpublished work done by researchers or because they belong to enterprises. Following this, a selection of information free of access rights was transferred to the SLGO’s interactive web application, Biodiversity, which is open to the general public.

The knowledge gathered in this data base directly addresses an industry need. In fact, for coastal areas affected by dwindling traditional marine resources, the harvest and processing of seaweed offers interesting prospects for economic diversification (Lionard and colleagues, 2014; Côté-Laurin and Tamigneaux, 2016). Although some twenty SMEs are already involved in the harvest, conversion or distribution of marine seaweed-based products, it is still an emerging industry. In recent years, several enterprises have sought to improve their access to the seaweed resource while demand on the part of foreign enterprises looking to obtain large volumes of marine seaweed from Québec has also been growing.

Partners and Team

The project is a collaborative effort involving a team of project managers and technicians affiliated with the NSERC Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in the Conversion of Marine Macroalgae, the Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles and the St. Lawrence Global Observatory (SLGO). It was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation (MAPAQ) and the Ministère des Finances et de l’Économie (MFE).

The CRIC in the Conversion of Marine Macroalgae and Merinov coordinated the project and were involved in the data gathering effort by sport divers and in the design of the internet portal. Gathering data from ministries, departments and university researchers as well as building and analysing the data base were the responsibility of Dr. Anissa Merzouk, who also served as the project’s consulting expert on the ecology and survey of marine macroalgae populations. The holder of the CRIC in the Conversion of Marine Macroalgae is Dr. Éric Tamigneaux, a research professor at Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles; the Research Chair is supported by six partner enterprises (Biotaag International, Fermes Marines du Québec, InnoVactiv, Organic Océan, Pro-Algue Marines and SCF Pharma) based in the Gaspésie and Bas Saint-Laurent administrative regions. Sharing this information was made possible through coordination and financial support of Technopole maritime du Québec (TMQ). As for the St. Lawrence Global Observatory, it developed the different systems that are used to enter and disseminate the data