So, now we have more dead fish this summer, in another Island watershed. How can this be? One thing for sure – we have to stop playing the “blame game” – especially with our Island farmers.
Government officials have confirmed a report of dead fish discovered in the Roseville system Monday.Staff from Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Department of Justice and Public Safety and the Department of Communities, Land and Environment confirmed the report upon visiting the site around noon today.
The fish were discovered by the local watershed organization. Water, soil, vegetation and fish samples are being collected to be sent for testing. Roseville is located on the western coast of P.E.I.
I think the first key thing to note is that the cause of the recent fish kills is, as yet, undetermined. We simply don’t yet know the root cause. In fact the “Fish Kill Information and Statistics” information on the government website admits that it is very tricky to determine the root cause of any fish kill – especially if pesticides are suspected. And if you read the fish kill reports linked to from this page you will find that neither the 2013 Trout River Fish Kill: Preliminary Report or the 2014 North River Fish Kill: Preliminary Report specifies any cause of death (I can’t find the final reports anywhere online). In the case of the 2014 North River incident a CBC article states:
In fact the 1962 to 2011: Island Fish Kill Summary Report linked to from the same page shows that of the 14 or so fish kills reported since July 2002, the probable cause of only one incident has been determined (July 22, 2007 – Pesticide: chlorothalonil).
We need to stop jumping to conclusions, and we need to stop demonizing farmers – especially potato farmers. Yes, regulations need to be followed, and improvements need to be made to farming practices, but this is not the end-all-be-all to solve the “fish kill” problems. For example, in the recent fish kill on the Clyde River it has been reported to me that the inability of the ditches and culverts on provincial roads to handle the water flow may have been the biggest contributing factor – all farming practices were being followed and agriculture infrastructure handled the water from the massive downpour with no issues.
Instead of constantly confronting land owners, scrutinizing their land management and/or farming practices after the fact – and creating ill will within an environment of fear – we need to get the key groups involved to cooperate. Who are these “key groups”?
Watershed groups are universally recognized as passionate, knowledgeable volunteers who have their boots on the ground and are best positioned to understand the state of our watersheds – and need more funding to continue their great work – especially with an agreed on 10 times return on every dollar of funding. Farmers and land owners adjacent to waterways are already important members of many watershed groups, but this relationship needs to be fostered even more – and the provincial government has to be a supporting partner – across all departments. Our provincial government’s focus should not be on making and enforcing regulations, but providing stable supports to watershed groups and land owners, to research and fund grass roots projects, and make sure provincial infrastructure is up-to-snuff.
It is very important that projects are identified, managed and driven by watershed groups in cooperation with land owners. When stakeholders are acknowledged, and have an active role from the beginning, then meaningful progress can be made.
As noted above, I was unable to find the final reports online for the 2013 and 2014 fish kills, and the details of the recent fish kills this summer are not public either. Even if information cannot be publicly published – especially for incidents under investigation – one example of cooperation would be to keep representatives from stakeholders in the loop during the investigation.
With improved cooperation, specific and measurable targets can be set that all stakeholders are accountable to. I think that most people believe we are improving in our management of our water, but we need targets and metrics that show proof.