DFO funding helps restore habitat for species at risk

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Over the next three years, staff and volunteers at the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) will be restoring eroding riverbanks along the Nottawasaga River to improve habitat for two species at risk – lake sturgeon and northern brook lamprey.

The Nottawasaga River is home to one of the largest spawning populations of lake sturgeon in Southern Ontario. It is the largest fish found in Ontario, and can live up to 100 years. Northern brook lamprey, unlike sea lamprey, are not parasitic and are a native species that forms part of a healthy food chain in many larger trout streams.

“The habitat for these fish has been significantly degraded due to human impact,” said Laura Wensink, NVCA’s River Restoration Technician. “Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has provided us with $150,000 to stabilize eroding riverbanks and to keep sediment out of the water and keep phosphorus on land. By doing that, we hope to restore the habitat for these species at risk as well as other fish and wildlife.”

Historically, trees, shrubs and grasses were removed from the banks of the Nottawasaga River to maximize land use. Without roots to hold the soil together, the force of the river erodes the banks, pushing the soil into the river. As the soil settles, it fills in the holes between gravel and rock and covers spawning habitats used by fish.

High levels of phosphorus are also a concern in the Nottawasaga River.

Phosphorus is essential for supporting life in the river, but excessive amounts can cause algae blooms and reduce the oxygen levels. NVCA will work with landowners to install fencing to keep livestock and the phosphorus in their manure out of the water. Trees and shrubs will also be planted to provide shade to keep the river cool and keep sediment on land.

“The Government of Canada is committed to the protection and recovery of our species at risk and their habitats,” said The Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries,

Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. “Community-led work, like this project to address riverbank erosion in the Nottawasaga River, is key to the sustainability of our aquatic ecosystems and to conserving Canada’s biodiversity.”

The work that DFO is supporting is part of the larger Nottawasaga River Restoration Program designed to enhance water quality, improve trout and salmon habitat and increase populations of these important sport fishing species in the Nottawasaga River and Georgian Bay.

Contributed photo: NVCA aquatic biologist Sarah Campbell and manager of stewardship services Fred Dobbs with a lake sturgeon, a species at risk, sampled at Wasaga Beach in the Nottawasaga River.

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