Clean Coasts


Wetlands: front line defenders against Farming Pollution 

Addressing Agricultural Water Quality Issues in Salt Marshes

Status: Ongoing
Funder: Environment and Climate Change Canada

Project description
Agricultural practices can lead to poor water quality conditions by contributing elevated nutrients and fecal input into the water source resulting in algal blooms and poor fish health. Wetlands are valuable systems that can help reduce nutrients, harmful bacteria and sediment levels in waterways. Clean Coasts explores wetland enhancements that can help improve water quality in creeks and downstream areas of agricultural land.

Through support from CB Wetland and Environmental Specialists, Save the Bay Narangansett and the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, Clean Coasts will be completing work in Antigonish and the Northumberland Strait. In Antigonish, our team will establish, and monitor, a riparian buffer around a tidal creek that drains water run-off from croplands. Alongside this work, we are studying water quality and will provide recommendations for several watersheds in the Northumberland Strait.

Blue Carbon Counts

Understanding How Coastal Ecosystems Sequester Carbon to Combat Climate Change 

Status: Completed
Funder: Royal Bank of Canada

Project description
Until now, it has not been possible to determine how much carbon is stored in Nova Scotia’s coastal wetlands. Clean Coasts has helped change this with the purchase of a specialized aerial drone with LIDAR-sensing capabilities. So far, this cutting-edge technology has been used by the team to estimate the volume of stored carbon in two salt marshes in northern Nova Scotia.

In 2021, with the support from the Nuji kelo’toqatijik (Earth Keepers), the Incoast Lab at St. Mary’s University and Boreas Heritage, the team was able to collect blue carbon samples at the Brule Shore salt marsh. The information gathered was used to quantify the amount of blue carbon stored in the soil. This work helps prove the viability of LIDAR technology which can be used to help start building a blue carbon inventory for Nova Scotia. Information that is vital to better understand how protecting and restoring Nova Scotia’s coastal wetlands can help reduce carbon emissions. 

Preserving the Northumberland Strait

Coastal Restoration Foundation (CRF) Project

Status: Completed
Funder: Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)

Project description
Nearly 70 per cent of Nova Scotia’s salt marshes have been lost due to development, infrastructure and agriculture. These vital ecosystems help combat climate change, provide habitat for wildlife and protect communities from storm surge and sea level rise.  

Funded by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), the Northumberland Strait Coastal Restoration Project aimed to restore 15 hectares of salt marsh habitat that had been impacted by humans along the North Shore. This five-year project helped identify, restore and monitor salt marsh habitat and build capacity to help local communities become care takers of the areas in which they live. 

Projects included:  

  • a tidal barrier audit in the Northumberland Strait region; 
  • a culvert to bridge replacement in Trenton; 
  • a runnel restoration in Ferguson’s Cove and Brule Point; and   
  • a living shoreline in Pictou Landing First Nation. 

Washing away barriers in Pugwash River 

Nova Scotia Salmon Association (NSSA) Project

Status: Completed
Funder: Nova Scotia Salmon Association


Project description
Funded by the Nova Scotia Salmon Association (NSSA), in partnership with the Friends of Pugwash Estuary (FOPE), Clean Coasts performed both fish habitat and culvert assessments in the Pugwash Watershed during the summer and fall of 2021. A follow-up to work previously completed by FOPE in partnership with NSSA, Clean Coasts revisited sites where assessments and restoration work had previously taken place. Here, they monitored for changes in the ecosystem and addressed any barriers to fish (salmon and trout) passage in streams in the Pugwash Watershed. Fish rely on open streams to swim freely and access essential resources for survival. As culverts can act as barriers for fish, assessing culverts and fish habitat conditions helps identify areas that require restoration efforts. 

Reef Ball Program 

Status: Ongoing 
Funder: Environment and Climate Change Canada through the Environmental Damages Fund


Project description
Clean Coasts launched the Atlantic Reef Ball program to create, install and monitor artificial reefs in the Halifax Harbour. Artificial reefs are designed to restore marine habitat by fostering the growth of an ecosystem that supports fish and shellfish populations. In addition to providing shelter and protection to fish species, artificial reefs support the growth of marine plants, like algae or seaweed, which are foundational species in these ecosystems. They also serve as habitat for spawning and reproduction for many types of fish and shellfish making them critical to the success of population growth. Since 2013, 472 reef balls have been deployed in the Halifax Harbour, representing 85,000 square metres of marine habitat or almost 16 football fields. 

Cool retreat for fish

Status: Ongoing 
Funder: Royal Bank of Canada through the Tech for Nature Fund


Project description
In the face of climate change, Nova Scotia’s rivers are getting warmer. Warming is further exacerbated by the declining vegetation in riparian zones, as plants play a crucial role in regulating water temperatures. Now, native fish species are vulnerable as their survival depends on retreating in cool water pools. Clean Coasts is currently addressing this issue with the purchase of a multispectral thermal camera to attach to a specialized aerial drone.

With the support of RBC, in partnership with the Friends of Pugwash Estuary (FOPE) and Nova Scotia Salmon Association, access to this technology has offered the opportunity to map out cold water refuge areas throughout the Pugwash watershed in northern Nova Scotia. Information that identifies priority areas along the Pugwash River for restoration and conservation efforts, ultimately improving habitat conditions and overall ecosystem health.

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