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Category Archives: Aquatic Life

Quebec and Ontario work together to save the American eel

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By Kalina Laframboise, THE GAZETTE July 16, 2014

HAWKESBURY, Ont – A joint operation between the Ontario and Quebec provincial governments, Hydro-Québec, the Canadian Wildlife Federation and the Algonquins of Ontario saw 400 juvenile American eels released into the Ottawa River for the first time on Wednesday afternoon in an effort to save the species in Ontario.

The American eels were provided from a Hydro-Québec eel ladder at the dam in Beauharnois and transported to Voyageur Provincial Park in East Hawkesbury in the morning. They were released in the middle of the Ottawa River just above the Carillon dam that spans from Carillon to Pointe-Fortune.

Read entire article and view video here.






Unionid mussels – our subtly beautiful largest invertebrate animals!

Become a Local Expert

Because of their constant filtering, Unionids are the heavy-duty in-stream providers of “water quality,” and unlike fish, they can’t get out of the way and then quickly swim back to recolonize a site. Stream projects should avoid disturbing the streambed where they’re abundant, since the mussels mature slowly, and mature individuals can keep providing improved water quality for several decades. Water level fluctuations in impoundments can make
vast areas of the bottom behind dams uninhabitable.

To become the local unionid expert, search shores & bottoms of streams, and shores & shallows of lakes, concentrating on clear-water habitats and on riffles, and especially on streams right below lake outlets, where phytoplanktonic food from the still water flows like a perpetual buffet. Some species are wedged into the mucky banks of streams. Muskrats accumulate shell piles beside stumps and rocks on the bank, which you’ll find easily once you begin to think like a Muskrat. Flood waters concentrate shells at the foot of bars, or in eddies. It’s important to examine lots of animals and collect lots of shells, because many species are superficially hard to tell apart and many are rare. Since you can collect dead shells without harming the populations, it’s possible to gather material documentation of the occurrence of species, and their variation. Continue reading


A Review of Lake Sturgeon Habitat Requirements and Strategies to Protect and Enhance Sturgeon Habitat

Kerr, S. J., M. J. Davison and E. Funnell. 2010. A review of lake sturgeon habitat requirements and strategies to protect and enhance sturgeon habitat. Fisheries Policy Section, Biodiversity Branch. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.  Peterborough, Ontario. 58 p. + appendices.

Pages 4 to 8:

The decline in lake sturgeon across much of North America has been attributed initially to unregulated fisheries and, more recently, to habitat alteration and destruction notably by pollution, dredging and channelization, and the construction of dams and hydroelectric facilities. Dredging and channelization can alter lake sturgeon spawning grounds. Sturgeon have been impacted by many forms of pollution which can disrupt olfactory feeding behaviour. Dams and hydroelectric stations can have a negative impact on lake sturgeon by fragmenting their habitat, impeding migrations to spawning grounds and, depending on the type of operation, having a negative impact on egg survival and recruitment. Downstream migrants may also be impinged or entrained at hydroelectric plants.

Attempts to resolve some of these habitat impacts have included construction of fish passes at dams, establishing base flows or “run-or-river” regimes at hydroelectric facilities, creation or enhancement of spawning areas, use of downstream guidance and diversion structures, and improvements to water quality. There has been some success with constructing artificial spawning grounds for lake sturgeon. Sturgeon have also been shown to display a positive response to improvements in water quality and “run-of-river” hydrologic regimes at dams and power stations. The ability to design a fish pass suitable for fish with the body size/shape and swimming capabilities of lake sturgeon has proven difficult, however, and further research is required in this area. Many sturgeon populations are also impacted by “peaking” operations at hydroelectric facilities and the issue of facilitating downstream passage over artificial barriers also needs to be resolved. Continue reading


Draft – American Eel (Anguilla rostrata) in Ontario Ontario Recovery Strategy Series

Author:  MacGregor, R., J. Casselman, L. Greig, W. A. Allen, L. McDermott, and T. Haxton.   2010. DRAFT Recovery Strategy for the American Eel (Anguilla rostrata) in Ontario.  Ontario Recovery Strategy Series. Prepared for Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Peterborough, Ontario. vii+ 78 pp.

Pages 23 to 24:

Barriers to Migration

Dams can severely impede upstream dispersal of juvenile eels in freshwater if no passage way is provided (Haro et al. 2000). It has been estimated that 85 percent of freshwater habitat for migratory fish in the United States has been lost due to barriers (Lary et al. 1998). In a 1998 study, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that eels may have been eliminated from 81 percent of their historic habitat between Connecticut and Maine due to the construction of a large number of dams (ASMFC 2000). Barriers reduced eel densities by at least a factor of 10 on the Hudson River, and eel condition was significantly poorer above barriers (Machut et al. 2007). The situation appears similar in Ontario where at least 953 dams exist within the eel’s historic range (Figure 7). Hydroelectric dams generally pose the most significant barrier to upstream migration due their height. However, with the exception of one eel ladder at the Moses-Saunders facility on the St. Lawrence River, as of 2008 no provisions for upstream fish passage for any species have been made at any of the approximately 200 hydroelectric stations in Ontario.  Negotiations with a few facilities are now underway to correct this situation for upstream eel passage.

Turbines at Hydroelectric Facilities

Hydroelectric facilities in Ontario pose significant challenges to eels (Larinier and Dartiguelongue 1989; Mitchell and Boubée 1992; Desroches 1995; Normandeau Associates Inc. and Skalski 1998; Haro et al. 2000; Dönni et al. 2001, in ICES 2003; McCleave 2001; Allen 2008 b, c, d), as they impart serious individual and cumulative mortalities at the watershed level to downstream migrants en route to spawn (McCleave 2001; MacGregor et al. 2009). There are 87 hydroelectric facilities within the historic range of eels in Ontario, and 30 within the post-2000 range (Figure 8). As of 2009, many of these facilities continue to cause annual eel mortalities (Community Stewardship Council of Lanark County 2010; A. Bendig, pers. comm. 2009; K. Punt, pers. comm. 2009). With the exception of recent trap and transport efforts at Moses-Saunders, mortalities due to turbines at all hydroelectric facilities in Ontario continue unmitigated on most watersheds. Continue reading


The Lake Sturgeon in Ontario

Author:   Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. 2009. The lake sturgeon in Ontario. Fish and Wildlife Branch. Peterborough, Ontario. 48 p. + appendices.

Page 26.

The construction of dams, many for hydroelectric power generation, restrict access to spawning, nursery and feeding habitats thereby fragmenting their natural habitat (Figure 12).  Hydroelectric development was identified as the greatest problem for
lake sturgeon rehabilitation at 12 of 21 historic Lake Superior spawning sites (Ebener 2007). The blockage of migration routes has been attributed as the cause for decline and a factor preventing recovery of lake sturgeon in many situations (Harkness and Dymond 1961, Haxton and Findlay 2008, Mohr and McClain 2001, Swainson 2001).

Hydroelectric power generation can have strong negative effects on sturgeon spawning downstream.  Sturgeon recruitment is believed to be related to the volume of spring water flows. The artificial alteration of water levels and flows disrupts the natural
environmental cues associated with movements, spawning and downstream drift of larval fish. Constant flows allow large fish migratory access and triggers reproduction resulting in less time spent on the spawning grounds (Auer 1996b).

On the Kaministiquia River, Friday and Chase (2005) reported that adult sturgeon did not move to the spawning area at the base of Kakabeka Falls until flows reached 23 m3 sec-1. Water level fluctuations below dams can leave eggs susceptible to dessication (Brousseau and Goodchild 1989, Evans et al. 1993, Rosenberg et al. 1997). In some cases, sturgeon can become entrained and
stranded in pools downstream of hydroelectric facilities (Seyler 1996).

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Draft – Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) Great Lakes-Upper St. Lawrence River, Northwestern Ontario and Southern Hudson Bay-James Bay populations in Ontario Ontario Recovery Strategy Series

Author:  Golder Associates Ltd. 2011. DRAFT Recovery Strategy for Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) – Northwestern Ontario, Great Lakes-Upper St. Lawrence River and Southern Hudson Bay-James Bay populations in Ontario. Ontario Recovery Strategy Series. Prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Peterborough, Ontario. v + 74 pp.

About the Ontario Recovery Strategy Series

This series presents the collection of recovery strategies that are prepared or adopted as advice to the Province of Ontario on the recommended approach to recover species at risk. The Province ensures the preparation of recovery strategies to meet its commitments to recover species at risk under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk in Canada. Continue reading