A backlash is brewing in response to cuts being made at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Of mounting concern are the cuts to research scientists, including one of the world's leading authorities on ocean pollution.

Sixteen letters have been sent to employees at the St. Andrews, N.B. research station, though officials say the number of job losses will likely be fewer than that.

However, town leaders say the cuts will have an economic and social impact on the community.

"They're the people who volunteer," says St. Andrews Mayor Stan Choptiany. "They have decent salaries, so if there are cuts, that's money that they may save in Ottawa, but it's money that comes out of the town."

Almost $80-million has been cut from the federal fisheries department budget. As a result, layoff notices have been sent to fisheries scientists in St. Andrews and in the Halifax area, but Ottawa insists the research will still get done.

Kenneth Lee is an internationally renowned expert on the effects of oil spill contamination in marine environments and he is among the DFO employees who may be affected by the cuts.

A DFO official says the cuts amount to less than two per cent of the workforce a year, over three years, but opponents say the cuts are targeting the wrong people.

"On the marine pesticide issue, the people working in the program that has been cut here in St. Andrews are international go-to people. They are really at the cutting edge of expertise," says Matt Abbott of the New Brunswick Conservative Council. "These departments, more than any other departments in the DFO and Environment Canada, are what is protecting our fishery."

The DFO says employees who have received letters may lose their jobs, or they may be asked to re-locate to take another position in the government.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron