Aqua-tourism: Science, seals, sharks, and salmon
A day on the water off the coast of New Brunswick is filled with adventures for all ages.
Captain Chris Leavitt and crew will show you where our river otters play, where to watch for whales and which rocks the seals gather at to bake in the sun when the tides low.
“Harbor Seals are all different colors, just like us and each one a different color hair – anything from white to black and everything in between,” said Captain Leavitt. “As the tide comes in, these guys will have to move!”
It’s been 16 years since Captain Leavitt’s family started the Island Quest Whale and Wildlife Cruises. They have been providing visitors guided tours of the Majestic bay.
On a recent tour of aquaculture sites as part of the Bay of Fundy Seafood Festival, the Island Quest Marine took passengers to his neighborhood salmon farms.
The slow winding course started out of the mouth of Passamaquoddy Bay, rounded past the Dear Island Ferry and then weaved through a maze of tiny islands until reaching a small blue house swaying atop the water and watching over three local salmon farms nestled off the Coast of Fish Island.
This is where we found what looks like huge floating baskets bobbing in the waves, wrapped in netting and guttering with jumping Salmon. What first looks like a cage actually protects the salmon from the Bay’s many predators, such as hungry seals, osprey and other animals looking for an easy meal, says Leavitt.
Salmon exports generate over $190 million of New Brunswick’s $1 Billion fish and seafood industry.
The tour was organized by the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association (ACFFA) to highlight the industry progress it has made since it arrival in the Bay approximately three decades ago.
“At one point, everywhere you looked you use to see aquaculture sites, but then we figured out that wasn’t the way things should happen. Science got a little more intense and we realized what was going on,” says Nicole Leavitt, the Captain’s sea-hardened daughter and the ships local marine biologist. “ After that salmon farmers realized there were certain sites that were better than others to put certain things and since then, we’ve kind of whittled down to the roughly 30 sites we have in the area.”
The Captain also demonstrates traditional fishing techniques he perfected while growing up under the strict tutelage of his father, such as lobster trapping and setting the herring wiers.
However, if you’re looking for a more of a rush, St. Andrew Sports fishing offers you the unique experience of shark fishing and supporting important scientific research under the watchful eyes the Captain, his daughter Nicole Leavitt and her fellow marine biologist.
Not only is the process relatively harmless for the Porbeagle Shark, but you are actually helping the trained specialist from the University of New Brunswick and Canadian Shark Conservation Society in her efforts to tag and track the struggling species in research aimed to save the handsome creatures.
“It’s pretty intense and eco-tourism at its best,” says Leavitt, “… Science and fishing merged together!”