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Province buying boat to replace vessel leases

The MV Anne S. Pierce.
The MV Anne S. Pierce.

It hasn’t been bought yet, but the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is preparing to order a shiny, new boat.

The research vessel will be used for aquaculture site visits and biosecurity audits, but will also be made available for oceanography work and applied research, according to information provided by the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources.

“We were leasing and renting vessels,” said minister Steve Crocker, in a meeting earlier this month, with representatives from the NDP and Progressive Conservatives, walking through his departmental budget line by line. “We will have our own vessel now to do the bay management work. And actually, the vessel is a replacement for a smaller, older, outdated vessel.”

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador had leased the MV Anne S. Pierce from the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland. That 117-foot training and research vessel is now laid up and not for further use, a Marine Institute spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.

Crocker spoke about the province’s planned purchase after being asked about a roughly $350,000 drop in spending on professional services in one area of the department’s budget. There is a separate but roughly equal jump in spending noted, on departmental equipment. He attributed the changes to the planned purchase.

The new boat isn’t available yet, but a request for proposals is being drawn up. Specifications were not made available and no cost estimates were released, with the note costs would be determined as the process proceeds.

“Discussions with industry leaders highlighted the need for a specialized vessel of this type to responsibly manage current and anticipated growth in the province’s aquaculture sector,” read a statement provided in response to questions. “The province has been leasing a vessel through the Marine Institute which does not provide all the specialized tools required to conduct detailed scientific studies.”

The new vessel will be based in St. Alban’s, but used around the province.

Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association executive director Mark Lane called it a good investment, particularly in terms of potential data collection.

“Information gathering and how our oceans are changing … it’s critical that we understand as much as we can, not just for aquaculture, but for wild fisheries also,” he said.

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