Canada’s Ocean Supercluster Announces $4.9M OceanDNA System™ Project

(St. John’s, NL) Today Canada’s Ocean Supercluster announced its newest project, the OceanDNA System™.

Led by eDNAtec Inc. together with partners Petroleum Research Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut Fisheries Association, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the OceanDNA System project will revolutionize how to assess, monitor and characterize the ocean.

With a total project value of $4.9 million, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster has provided $2.2 million in funding to the project with the balance of funding coming from project partners. Seventeen jobs will directly support the research and development activity related to the OceanDNA System, and in addition, graduating university students will also have the opportunity to engage in the project to help build capabilities and experience in this area.

The OceanDNA System has applications across ocean sectors
and could be used to help inform sustainable ocean management and activity.

 By reading DNA from environmental samples, such as sediment or sea water, a comprehensive range of organisms can be identified – from bacteria to marine mammals – which yields a complete picture of the ecosystem.  eDNAtec’s technology achieves proven cost reductions, strengthens environmental stewardship, enhances safety and supports regulatory compliance.

Project activity will be led from eDNAtec’s Centre for Environmental Genomics Applications (CEGA) in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador in collaboration with project partners to develop and commercialize genomics solutions to modernize the way we monitor, measure and assess fish stocks. Environmental DNA (eDNA) data can also be combined with complementary data derived from acoustics, remote sensing, counts from fishing activities, and historical knowledge to generate predictive models about the presence, location and abundance of high value target species.

Conventional approaches for ecological assessment, such as direct sampling, and visual/acoustic observation, are expensive and often imprecise. ‘Catch and look’ sampling, sorting and individually identifying organisms is lengthy and labor-intensive and is sometimes harmful or disruptive to rare or endangered species. Through Canada’s Ocean Supercluster program, the OceanDNA System will not only address these limitations with its innovative technology, but will also commercialize the solution in world markets, generating new economic activity, creating new jobs and opportunities, while also helping to position Canada as a global leader in ocean genomics.

Canada’s Ocean Supercluster is changing the way ocean business is done. With an innovative model for growth that reduces risk for Canadian companies, we are increasing collaboration and data exchange across ocean sectors, creating a platform for the development of commercial, sustainable ocean solutions, building an inclusive and highly-capable workforce, and continuing to drive resiliency in our oceans.


“The Ocean Supercluster is teaching us more about Canada’s great marine resources. We are managing our oceans more sustainably while creating new jobs for Canadians.”

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources

“Canada’s Ocean Supercluster is excited to announce its newest Technology Leadership Project called the OceanDNA System Project. With activity led out of St. John’s, this project brings together partners from different ocean sectors across the country to not only revolutionize the assessment, monitoring, and characterization of the ocean, but also builds capabilities, creates jobs, and economic opportunities through commercialization.”

Kendra MacDonald, CEO, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster

“We are excited to work with Canada’s Ocean Supercluster and our multi-sectoral partners to develop and apply advanced genomic technologies to characterize precious Ocean ecosystems. Genomic tools have been at the forefront of biological detection and surveillance such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. They represent a paradigm shift in our capacity to detect organisms and this can aid immensely for monitoring the ocean environment.”

Dr. Mehrdad Hajibabaei, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, eDNAtec Inc.

“This project will be seeking to expand the development of eDNA technology to provide significant information to assist in the management of our fishery resources. Used in combination with annual stock surveys and other technologies, including fish tracking programs, this will help improve our understanding of the marine environment and the ecosystem within which we operate our fishery.”

Sakiasie Sowdlooapik, Chair of the Nunavut Fisheries Association

Characterization of the marine environment is a critical requirement for operating safely and responsibly in the ocean, and environmental DNA is a very promising technology that offers huge potential for advancing our capability to monitor changes to that environment.  The oil and gas sector has been working with eDNAtec to advance the development of this technology for a while now, and we’re really excited about working with other sectors through the Ocean Supercluster to expand its applicability.”

Dave Finn, CEO, Petroleum Research Newfoundland and Labrador

“The development of this technology can revolutionize how we conduct ecosystem science, extending our understanding and our capacity to manage ecosystems.”

Dr. David Cote, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Research Scientist and DFO’s lead OceanDNA project coordinator
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