More fish tales on the St. Lawrence River

Seen in image above: Matt Windle an Aquatic Biologist actively engaged in fish research at the River Institute. Courtesy photo

CORNWALL — Pulsing through the main artery of the Great Lakes in the St. Lawrence River are many dozens of fish species. However, these populations are regularly being impacted by a variety of circumstances. The October 10 session of Science and Nature on Tap at Schnitzel’s is all about the fish of the upper St. Lawrence River. The health of fish and the status of their populations has always been a key research area for the River Institute in Cornwall. Matt Windle is an Aquatic Biologist actively engaged in fish research at the River Institute. Windle has travelled the waterways of Canada to study fish populations and he has an especially keen interest in species that are under stress.

Many of the original fish stocks in the St. Lawrence have changed over the years. The upper St. Lawrence is well known for small and largemouth bass, northern pike, carp, and muskellunge (a.k.a. muskies). However, impacted by pollution, invasive species, as well as commercial fishing, iconic species such as herring, sturgeon, American eels, and salmon are now at a fraction of their historic populations. There are also government advisories connected to the rate of safe consumption of fish due to specific contaminants identified within certain populations.

A collaboration with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) Environment Program, the Fish Identification Nearshore Survey (FINS) is a research project coordinated by Matt Windle that is serving to provide indicators that provide information about the health of the River. Nearshore ecosystems are important as they serve as nursery and feeding grounds for many valuable species of fish and invertebrate species. Given their proximity to upland activities, these communities may be particularly sensitive to changes in land use and developmental pressures.

Since 2015, Windle, MCA Environment staff, and a summer team of students have been studying the interactions between markers such as nearshore fish and aquatic wildlife populations, water quality, habitat features, shoreline alterations, and invertebrates. They do this by sampling the unique coastal areas along the St. Lawrence from the Thousand Islands through to the Quebec border.

The goal of this project is to better understand these areas as well as to identify and map fish populations along the upper St. Lawrence River. These findings will ultimately help to inform a 2020 St. Lawrence River Health Report Card being developed by the River Institute and its partners as well as provide information towards creation of habitat rehabilitation and recovery strategies.

This session is open to the general public and will be held at Schnitzel’s European Flavours in Cornwall on Wednesday, October 10 at 7 p.m. Science and Nature on Tap sessions are free of charge. For more information contact the program coordinator at (613) 936-6620 (229) or e-mail Karen Cooper at kcooper@riverinstitute.ca. or visit: www.riverinstitute.ca.

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